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Virginia Students Share Observations from Mexico
contributed by Ms. Heather Jersild, Norfolk Collegiate
(Back to this week's update.)

January 31, 2011
Thank you for the chance to write about our adventure. We are still dizzy from the trip and love talking about it.

At our school the Seniors create a "senior project" for themselves and I had a group who decided that we would go observe the monarchs and do observations of the biodiversity and forest structure in their overwintering site. The protocol for this investigation is part of a international effort organized by Dan Bisaccio of Brown University through HabitatNet The goal of HabitatNet is to enable teachers and students (1) to establish permanent biodiversity monitoring projects around the globe and (2) use telecommunications, via email and world wide web sites, to communicate investigations, findings, and questions regarding biodiversity issues and management.

When we started planning the trip it all seemed relatively straight forward, but the news and publicity surrounding the narcotics conflict in Michoacan made things stressful for the students, myself and the parents. So, after months of planning our study emphasis in Michoacan, we switched the whole itinerary to the Estado de Mexico and just decided to go up the range from the other side! Our coordinating hosts for this research trip was Ecocolors, they are an eco-travel group based in the Yucatan. Without their guidance and planning our location switches and tremendous success with the colonies would not have happened!

Considering the luck we had with the weather and butterflies I feel it was our destiny to be at Piedra Herrada and Capulin! Our original expectation was that we would be doing density counts of very quiet, sleepy butterflies and forest structure assessments, but at both sites the butterflies EXPLODED while we were there (3,100 meters altitude). At times it was hard to breath!

At Capulin the butterflies were flying, and traveling fast down into the valley of the "three governors" in a river of movement. It was a hot day, sunny and dry. The next day a very intense cold wave arrived and then we understood their mass movement which we witnessed. At both sites we were alone with the butterflies, without other observers. The rangers who stayed with us were gracious and shared in our measurements, drawings and conversations.

We stayed at a guest house in Valle de Bravo and loved the city!!! I think we're all still hearing the sound of the butterfly wings! I have included here a few of our pictures. We have many and would love to share. Videos too, with the sound of 60 million wings flapping!

Heather Jersild
Norfolk Collegiate
Norfolk, Virginia

Monarch butterflies in flight at overwintering site in MexicoMonarch butterflies in flight at overwintering site in MexicoMonarch butterflies in flight at overwintering site in Mexico

"The butterflies were moving fast down into the valley, in a river of movement."

Monarch butterflies in flight at overwintering site in Mexico

"I think we're all still hearing the sound of the butterfly wings!"

Monarch butterflies in flight at overwintering site in Mexico

Students record their observations and measurements.

Monarch butterflies in flight at overwintering site in Mexico

The monarchs were unusually active for January, due to the hot, sunny weather.

Monarch butterflies in flight at overwintering site in Mexico

"At times it was hard to breathe."

Monarch butterflies in flight at overwintering site in Mexico

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