Subscribe for campaign updates, advocacy opportunities, and more.
Women for Nature Explore the Local to the Global
[caption id="attachment_29288" align="alignleft" width="150"] Jaime Clifton-Ross[/caption]
This blog is written by Jaime Clifton-Ross, Research Curator, CRC Research and Changing the Conversation, School of Environment and Sustainability, Royal Roads University.
Like climate change, biodiversity does not respect political borders, given the lengthy migratory paths that many species journey, either by land or water. Protecting wildlife and conserving ecosystems is especially challenging as such efforts require global governance systems. To unpack these issues and to explore potential solutions, Changing the Conversation hosted the second e-dialogue from our 4-part series, Biodiversity Conversations: How important are the common loon and polar bears to Canadians. Led by Women for Nature and moderated by co-chair Ann Dale, the panelists brought expertise in soil biodiversity, marine mammals, climate change, conservation, and monarch butterflies. Overall, it was a thought-provoking discussion given the invaluable knowledge and experience of our expert panelists.
The e-conversation used the Monarch Butterfly and their migratory cycle to illuminate how many species are highly dependent on both local and global ecosystems. We learned that biodiversity loss often begins at a local scale— whether through habitat loss and fragmentation, resource extraction or exploitation, invasive species, etc.—and often becomes a problem of global proportion, which in turn feeds back into the local. They also discussed how many conservation strategies and official plans do not account for species migration. Like marine protected areas, landscape corridors are also critical since many species spend much of their lives away from their breeding and feeding grounds. As local biodiversity loss reflects global biodiversity loss, action at the local level can make a huge impact. Unfortunately, many global actions have not been effective, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, because they have failed to make this connection.
After agreeing that conservation must simultaneously occur at multiple scales, the panelists explored the need to break-down political boundaries and to augment cross-border cooperation and collaboration. They also shared many examples of existing initiatives and organizations throughout North America.
A concluding consensus was that we need to creatively engage people with nature, especially at a young age. This may personalize experiences with biodiversity loss and subsequently help consumers better understand their individual and collective impacts on their environment.
To view the full conversation, download a PDF copy here which includes many sources highlighted during the conversation. You can also download a PDF copy here. To dive deeper on the subject, check out our curated biodiversity library featuring a collection of resources on our Changing the Conversation platform.
Our next conversation will take place at the end of January 2018 and will focus on the drivers and barriers of biodiversity conservation. Upon completing the series, we will be transforming our dialogue into action, drafting a biodiversity conservation action agenda to circulate to Canadian decision-makers across the country. So, stay tuned.
The Monarch on Fall Migration
[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"] Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption]
Did you know that Monarch Butterflies travel up to 3000 kilometers south for the winter? Every year, these insects migrate an incredibly long distance to get to their wintering grounds in Central Mexico. Here, there are millions that congregate in a Canadian-type northern fir forest. The forest provides cover as the Monarchs drape themselves from the fir trees in the millions. They migrate to this particular habitat as it protects them from temperature extremes and dryness.
As they start their migration in late summer/early fall, you may be lucky to see more Monarchs buzzing around your NatureHood. One filmmaker in Toronto was lucky enough to see a number of Monarchs on their journey and captured a video to show our winged friends!
Aside from the fall migration – you will also see the Monarch coming back to Canada in early June. What better way to celebrate their return than to help this species! Over the last 20 years, the Monarch Butterfly population has seen a drop of 80%! In Canada, the Monarch is listed as special concern under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
This year, a new program was put in place called MilkweedWatch that allows you to help the Monarch Butterfly through citizen science! This program requires you to identify the location of milkweed plants, which are crucial for Monarch reproduction in Canada. By doing so, it helps researchers and conservation groups protect and preserve milkweed plants across Canada!
Along with protecting milkweeds, Nature Canada also worked with the Monarch Teacher Network of Canada to showcase the life cycle of the Monarch and display what teachers are doing to help protect this species.
Have you seen more Monarchs in your NatureHood? Let us know through Facebook or Twitter!
A passion for Monarch Butterflies
[caption id="attachment_18250" align="alignleft" width="150"] Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese, Women for Nature Member[/caption]
Interview of Woman for Nature Laren Stadelman, MBA, FCMC, President of Stadelman Consulting Inc., management consultant, and coach by Woman for Nature Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese.
[caption id="attachment_26495" align="alignright" width="150"] Laren Stadelman, Women for Nature Member[/caption]
Sharolyn (S): A few years ago, you successfully nurtured a Monarch butterfly from egg to adulthood. What was that like?
Laren (L): It was exciting, and I got more out of it than I expected. I had grown up with Monarchs at the cottage, and they were quite plentiful when I was young. I’d been seeing fewer and fewer of them so when I read an article about raising Monarchs, I decided to give it a try. I got to see firsthand all the stages of metamorphosis from egg to butterfly and it was really quite fascinating.
S: Were you surprised by the experience?
L: Yes. I was surprised by how quickly caterpillars grow and much they eat. Over the course of about two weeks, my caterpillar grew from the size of an eyelash to the size of your little finger. Caterpillars only eat milkweed and after the first few days, mine was eating about 2-3 milkweed leaves every day.
S: Wow! That means even one insect needs a large habitat. Then, one caterpillar needs a cluster of milkweed plants to provide enough food since it will eat at least 30 leaves.
L: Yes. You can see why the availability of milkweed is so important for the Monarchs.
S: Did you see your caterpillar get to the chrysalis stage?
L: Yes, she did. I had never seen a chrysalis before and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was - emerald green with tiny golden dots. It looked like a tiny piece of jewellery.
[caption id="attachment_32746" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Photo of a Monarch caterpillar[/caption]
S: How did you know when the butterfly would emerge? Did you see it?
L: I had read that butterflies usually emerge in the morning and that proved to be the case. I knew it was going to happen soon when the chrysalis changed from green to and orange to black and I could see the shape of the butterfly inside. Gradually the chrysalis split open and the butterfly emerged. It was amazing to watch!
S: I guess they emerge in the morning so that they have the best chance to find flowers for their first meal.
L: Yes, that would make sense. I let mine go in that afternoon in a field with plenty of wildflowers. Because she was born in late summer I knew she would be migrating all the way to Mexico - a long journey for a small creature. It was hard to say goodbye.
S: You’ve called your Monarch ‘Charlotte’. Was that from Charlotte’s Web, the spider story?
L: No. I called her Charlotte after a dog I met in British Columbia.
S: What was the connection between a dog and a Monarch butterfly?
L: Charlotte was a small dog who got picked up by an eagle and carried away. Her owners thought for sure she was gone, but a few days later, she returned. I wanted my Monarch to be a survivor, just like Charlotte.
S: How did you know she was a female?
L: I didn’t know for sure until she emerged. Male Monarchs have a telltale black dot on their hind wings; Charlotte didn’t.
S: How long did the whole process take?
L: From egg to butterfly was about 5 weeks. I found plenty of good information about raising Monarchs on the internet and I should mention that if anyone is considering it, they would be wise to check first with their local wildlife authorities. Ontario has regulations for raising wildlife, and the other provinces may have them, too.
[caption id="attachment_32745" align="aligncenter" width="551"] Photo of a Monarch chrysalis[/caption]
S: Was it after you released Charlotte that you decided to go to Mexico to see the Monarchs’ winter habitat at the Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa?
L: Yes. Looking after Charlotte for 5 weeks, I developed a very strong interest in her well-being and I was curious to see where she would spend the winter. I went there this past February. I like to believe I saw some of her great-great-great-grandchildren.
S: What was that like seeing the Monarchs in Mexico?
L: It was magical - just magical! I was lucky enough to visit on a sunny day when the butterflies were quite active. At first, there were only a few, but the numbers increased as we got closer to the top of the mountain at the overwintering site. At the site itself, the trees were weighted down with huge clusters of butterflies and there were hundreds of butterflies flying everywhere. The most magical part of the experience was that if you were really quiet, you could hear the fluttering of their wings!
[caption id="attachment_32757" align="aligncenter" width="365"] Charlotte emerging from the chrysalis. Photo from Laren Stadelman[/caption]
S: It sounds like gently rustling grass. I remember that sound from when I was there. Which sanctuary did you go to?
L: I visited the El Rosario Sanctuary. It is high up in the mountains northwest of Mexico City, and home to one of the 14 Monarch butterfly overwintering colonies. It lies within Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a protected area and UNESCO World Heritage site.
S: We went to El Rosario, too. Are the farmers still cutting the trees? We saw farmers with donkeys around the sanctuary burdened with chopped wood, and small trucks hauling trunks of trees.
L: Not that I saw. I found that the people in Angangueo, the town where I stayed, seemed very aware of the Monarchs. They told me that local communities have a butterfly festival every February that celebrates the Monarchs.S: What did you take away from the Monarch Butterfly’s migration from birth in Canada to overwinter in Mexico?
L: Getting to know Monarch butterflies has heightened my awareness of the challenges they face as a species. I now have a much greater appreciation of the milkweed plant as a food source for the caterpillars, and the need to protect the oyamel forests in the mountains where they spend the winter. In December of 2016, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) up-listed the Monarch from ‘Special Concern’ to ‘Endangered’. Hopefully this will lead to greater conservation efforts going forward.
[caption id="attachment_32762" align="aligncenter" width="365"] Monarch Butterflies on trees in Mexico. Photo by Laren Stadelman[/caption]
S: How do you incorporate Nature in your everyday life?
L: I believe that the more time we spend in Nature, the more we appreciate it; and the more we appreciate it, the more we recognize the need to protect and steward it wisely.
S: What does being a Woman for Nature mean to you?
L: I find it a very interesting group and I am excited by the variety and potential impact of the initiatives that we have under development. I’ve been involved in two – one related to mentoring young leaders and one focused on promoting dialogue about the importance of biodiversity. It’s been a real pleasure to meet other like-minded women and I think that collectively we can accomplish a lot.
S: Thank you, Laren.
L: Thank you, Sharolyn.
Monarch playgrounds—create a butterfly garden!
[caption id="attachment_31795" align="alignleft" width="150"] Amanda Simard, Writing Intern[/caption]
This blog was written by writing intern Amanda Simard.
Monarch Butterflies are a classic sign of summer but it is becoming increasingly rare to catch sight of them. In the following post, learn how you can create a Monarch-friendly garden to attract this beautiful butterfly to your own backyard!
Why it’s important
Over the last 20 years, the Monarch population has seen an 80% drop. As of the 2016 assessment by the Committee on the Status Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), the Monarch Butterfly is designated “threatened,” and its status under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) is “Special Concern." While severe storms are a factor in this decline, one of the main problems is the near eradication of milkweed due to overuse of pesticides.
Milkweed is crucial to this butterfly—they depend on it during their egg and larval stages for food and protection. The decline of milkweed wreaks havoc on Monarch reproduction, but there is something you can do! Grow your own Monarch-friendly garden and give a home to this majestic butterfly.
How to create a Monarch-friendly garden
[caption id="attachment_31841" align="alignright" width="300"] Monarch caterpillar on common milkweed[/caption]
Milkweed comes in many varieties that are indigenous to Canada. Opt for local plants when you can, they are already adapted to the climate and won’t require watering or fertilizer.
Local milkweed varieties include:
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) | blooms June to early August
Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) | blooms June to September
Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) | blooms June to September
Poke milkweed (Asclepias exaltata) | blooms June to early August
Plant nectar flowers
Adult Monarchs require nectar as a food source.
[caption id="attachment_31842" align="alignright" width="300"] Wild bergamot[/caption]
Local varieties of wildflowers are an excellent pick, and make sure to include colour! Butterflies generally like yellow, pink and orange flowers.
Some of the wildflowers Monarchs prefer include:
Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) | blooms May to September
New England aster (Aster novae-angliae) | blooms August to October
Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) | blooms July to August
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) | blooms June to September
Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) | blooms June to August
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) | blooms July to September
A place for rest and water
Try to include flat stones where butterflies can perch, spread their wings and bask in the sun. Additionally, damp spots or puddles in the soil allow butterflies to drink and replenish the minerals they need.
For more information about Monarchs and the plants to use in your garden, consult “The Monarch Guide”—our pamphlet with all the information you need.
What else you can do
Sign our petition to become a voice for Monarch Butterflies!
Join Monarch conservation initiatives and speak out against the use of milkweed killing pesticides. You can also help through supporting Nature Canada’s many conservation initiatives.
Already have a Monarch-friendly garden? Let us know what plants you like to use in the comments and send us your pictures on Twitter and Facebook!
Get To Know Our Women For Nature Members
Interview of new Woman for Nature Wendy MacKeigan, by Woman for Nature Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese.
Sharolyn: Wendy, welcome to Women for Nature! You are the Executive Vice-President of SK Films that has won major awards in Canada, and internationally for its nature films, and shows. You co-wrote Flight of the Butterflies, the IMAX 3D hit starring Gordon Pinsent as the Canadian scientist, Fred Urquhart who solved the mystery of the Monarch butterflies’ amazing migration from Canada to the remote mountain forests in Mexico. Let’s start with the Monarchs since I care deeply about them, and have been twice to see them in Mexico’s UNESCO Biosphere Monarca. What prompted you to do this film?
Wendy: It’s a great scientific detective story, a heartwarming Canadian story of perseverance and ultimate triumph by a husband and wife team combined with beautiful scenery and stunning animal behaviour – who wouldn’t want to see hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies floating around in the high pine-covered mountain tops of Mexico?. It was a very moving story to research and write, and my partner and I felt it would make a very compelling film – especially for IMAX 3D, that we filmed in Toronto, the US and Mexico, along the migratory route of the monarchs over a year. SK Films had previously made a successful film called Bugs! 3D A Rainforest Adventure that was filmed in the Borneo rainforest, so we knew we could capture the same close-ups of these small creatures that had delighted audiences, especially youth and families.
We made “Flight …” in the hope of engaging kids more with science and the scientific discovery process. We also knew that kids relate to and understand the science much more when youth can relate to the scientists, when you humanize the scientist and his/her goals, obstacles, sacrifices, failures and successes. Kids are especially engaged when scientists won’t give up. They find it inspirational. They see that when something means something to you, you should persevere through the hardship to achieve your dream. This seems to be a universal message.
Telling stories is a powerful way we can connect people – and especially youth - not just to science, but also to nature in general, to understand how everything is interconnected. And it was ordinary citizens who made such a huge difference in unraveling the mystery of the monarch butterfly migration – citizen scientists from Canada and the US.
S: Like you and me?
Yes. It was Fred’s wife, Norah, who really started the idea of involving regular people to help them, which led to setting up a tagging program across North America, which lasts to this day. Fred and Norah used people’s tagging information to follow the monarch’s migration from Toronto to Texas where they reached a dead-end. It was Nora who suggested they put an ad in the Mexican newspaper asking if the Monarchs were sighted there, and surprisingly, they got a response from a couple living in Mexico, an American Ken Brugger and his Mexican wife Catalina Aguado. With their important help - and again they were not scientists, but ordinary people with an interest in nature - Fred and Norah continued on the trail that eventually led to the mountain forests where the Monarchs roost in the winter. Fred and Norah were real partners, dividing the considerable work between them. Her strength was in communication, which was key to solving the Monarch mystery. When Fred was awarded the Order of Canada, he politely declined unless Norah was included – which she was. Considering I work with my husband in our company, I found it very interesting and got to know a lot of people who knew them well in the 60’s and 70’s and would often ask them what Fred and Norah were like as a couple working so closely together, including asking the only surviving member of the discovery team, Catalina, and she was very inspired by how well they worked together and how respectful Fred was of Norah and her many contributions and those that Catalina made in solving the overwintering mystery. Fred was experiencing serious health issues at the time of the discovery, but went to Mexico despite his doctor’s orders.
[caption id="attachment_31426" align="alignleft" width="300"] Crew in action filming monarchs in a field of Bluebonnets in Texas. Photo from Flight of the Butterflies[/caption]
S: Was the Mexican government supportive of the film?
W: Yes, very much. They invested in the film and see the importance of maintaining the health of the migration, which is threatened, and the economic value of eco-tourism, with their amazing butterfly mountain sanctuaries and overwintering sites. We were very fortunate that the President of Mexico at the time the film was made and first exhibited, Felipe Calderon, was from the state where the butterflies overwinter and he is an environmentalist/conservationist and was very much behind the film and hosted its World Premiere at the Smithsonian in Washington. Also the current President Peña Nieto is from the bordering state with some sanctuaries and he too is committed to the monarchs’ conservation, as he was when he was the State’s Governor.
The reaction to the film around the world has been amazing.
S: When I was in Mexico, I was appalled that close to 90% of the 56,000 hectares of the biosphere has been logged by squatter farmers who are cutting the trees for housing and fuel, and growing crops on the cleared land. It seems we can plant all the milkweed here, but if their overwinter habitat isn’t preserved, it isn’t enough.
W: We obviously need both. But the fact is, the loss of overwintering habitat is much more under control than it used to be, although there is much more that needs to be done, but the more serious problem is outside of Mexico on the migratory routes where the monarchs main food source, the milkweed plant is being destroyed. The monarchs can fly a mile high but they come down each night on their migration to rest and find food and even lay their eggs. When small farms are turned into industrial farms, the milkweed borders around those farms are eliminated. Also, the new pesticide resistant seeds can take more pesticide spraying but the milkweed, eggs and monarchs cannot, and this all adds to the serious decline in milkweed plants and monarch numbers. Within the monarch biosphere, the biggest threat to the Monarchs are the freak storms that occur more frequently in Mexico that scientists state are caused by climate change that kill millions of Monarchs at a time by bringing the deadly combination of wet and cold – it is devastating to see. This has caused great concern with our 3 world leading monarch butterfly experts who were advisors on the film and are all involved in conservation movements for the monarchs, Monarch Watch, Monarchs in the Classroom and Journey North.
S: Did the Monarch Biosphere benefit from “Flight”?
W: Yes, in several ways. We have drawn attention to this amazing creature and its habitats and main food source and helped underscore the importance of the biosphere and the migratory routes, plus we are donating a portion of the revenue from the film to one of the organizations dedicated to protecting it - Fondo Mexicano para la conservacion de la naturaleza. We also produced milkweed seed packages. There are over 100 different varieties of milkweed in North America and we had different packages made for specific areas that the monarchs favour so that students, teachers and moviegoers could plant the right milkweed for their region. We distributed over half a million milkweed seeds.
S: What are you working on now?
W: Well we are continuing our award-winning TV series called The Water Brothers broadcast on TVO starting on March 3rd for its fourth season and shown in over 40 countries. It’s an eco-adventure series with two brothers exploring the globe, examining the most important water stories of our time in both fresh water and in the oceans. Water connects us all and - just like the native women who have the important role in their culture as the water keepers – we all have to be water keepers and make our contribution to protecting and sustaining our most precious resource, which is constantly under threat. We are very proud of this series. In terms of another IMAX/Giant Screen film, our current one is Amazon Adventure 3D, another scientific detective story of a great discovery by an intrepid scientist named Henry Walter Bates. He had a passion for nature, was largely self-taught and almost unknown, but who against all odds provided what Darwin called “the beautiful proof” for what is the greatest explanation ever of the development of life on earth – Natural Selection. Bates, starting at the age of 23, spent 11 years in the Amazon from 1848 to 1859, played the guitar, spoke many native languages, risked his life, and made astounding discoveries about mimicry, discovered over 8,000 species new to science and put forward the first case ever for speciation – the creation of a new species through adaptation and natural selection. His collections are in the Natural History Museum in London and some in Paris are still valued scientifically today. The London museum kindly loaned us Bates’ 150 year old butterflies for the film. Batesian mimicry is still taught in biology classrooms. We have some examples of mimicry that will blow your minds – a pretty flower bud that is really a predatory spider, bird droppings that are really a bug, and a 4 inch moth caterpillar that looks exactly like the head of a viper snake, a non-toxic butterfly that looks identical to a toxic one – these are amazing examples of nature in action in the game of survival.
We have done test screenings of the rough cut of the film and are very happy that youth are responding so favourably to it – they find Bates very inspirational because he would not give up no matter the obstacles, malaria and yellow fever, starvation, violent storms, impenetrable jungles, jaguars and so on. They also seem to understand the complicated notion of natural selection by watching the film, which is really important to us and our team of investors, all committed to science education.
S: What was it like working in the Amazon?
W: Filming in the Amazon is very challenging, but with modern technology and resources, it pales in comparison to what Bates went through over 150 years ago, traveling and working in this environment. Apart from the intense heat and humidity and the logistical difficulties moving a crew of 125 up and down the river and through the rainforest to our incredible locations, and filming for the challenging medium of IMAX 3D, our biggest problems were some of crew getting sick with the Zika virus (fortunately, they recovered quickly and are fine) and a pet monkey that was always way too “happy”. Bates had several pet monkeys, and the one we used basically had a constant erection that we had to work and shoot around, since we make our films for the family IMAX museum market. It is always challenging to get the behaviour of the creatures in nature and for our natural history filming unit, we had the very talented Director of Photography Richard Kirby who works with BBC Earth a lot and has incredible patience. It turns out, our pet animal caused us even more challenges as he was being filmed with humans. Our very skilled and experienced director Mike Slee would arrive on set and ask, “just how happy is our lovely monkey today?”
S: What is next for you?
[caption id="attachment_31427" align="alignright" width="300"] Flight of the Butterflies at a monarch educational seminar. Photo from Flight of the Butterflies.[/caption]
W: We are releasing the film in April, as we are also distributors, with a World Premiere at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, so we will be working hard to get the message out to the world about the extraordinary bio diverse Amazon ecosystem and its importance to, amongst other things, our understanding of the development of life on the planet, particularly for kids to understand the science-based evidence for natural selection.
S: How has nature affected your life?
W: I was fortunate that I grew up in Sudbury, and in small town around it as my father was a mining engineer with INCO, where we had a cottage. I went to the YMCA Girl Guide summer camps, and nature was all around. It is incredible to be immersed in nature, observing and inhabiting it and trying to make sense of all of its mysteries. There is so much to see. I’d roam around and watch for hours, and didn’t even notice the time going by until I was called for dinner. My love of the natural world was the reason that I chose to study environmental studies at university. More recently, I discovered scuba diving, which we do as a family, and have added the underwater world to the places in nature I love to observe. My early life gave me a fundamental connection to nature that I have never lost and have tried to pass on to my children and it is central to the work I do in film and television, hopefully in some small way combatting the widespread condition that Margaret Atwood calls NDD - Nature Deficit Disorder. It is a family affair, since my two sons are the creative and scientific force behind “The Water Brothers”. They have worked with many of the top water scientists in the world and are also water ambassadors for WWF, working with David Miller, and are passionate about communicating the message in Canada and around the world, that everything is interconnected especially with water..
S: How do you incorporate nature in your daily life?
W. By limiting my own, my family’s, and my company’s carbon footprint. My eldest son is a “green” contractor always giving us tips on how to be more energy efficient and aware at home as my other sons give tips on water sustainability and all the little things I can do. We have a cottage in Georgian Bay that is off-grid and solar powered. We’re very much aware of this mindset. Once you get it, you see how you can reduce it. We can all be innovative to reduce our footprint if we put our minds to it, as The Water Brothers and other conservationists are eager to share with us. It is not a big effort if it is a family thing, which it is for us.
S:What does it mean to you to be a Woman for Nature?
W: It was an honour to be asked to be a Woman of Nature and it really is an impressive group of dedicated and passionate women. I am pleased that Nature Canada values the important role that media can play in communicating the message of environmental sustainability and raising awareness and action to manage our natural resources wisely and particularly to start that process of nature education early in a child’s life. In these times, it is very important for scientists and naturalists to communicate better. Just because something is science-based and provides evidence, does not necessarily mean that the average person will understand it, and without understanding there cannot be raised awareness and appropriate changes in behaviour. It is our job to make sure the simple and clear information including impacts and solutions in everyday life is effectively communicated whether it is climate change or how species adapt, are threatened or go extinct or the impact of water pollution or whatever the case might be. To be selected as part of Canada’s 150th birthday is important so that more people know about nature and I am proud that so many Canadians value our precious natural bounties and are willing to make sacrifices for sustainability It is like belonging to a tribe with a clear mission. We have to lay the groundwork for the next 25 years. We need to inspire future generations about the importance of nature, and our role in it.
S: Thank you, Wendy.
W: It was a pleasure, Sharolyn
Interested in seeing this film? Here is where it is playing now in Canada:
Executive Vice President, SK Films Inc.Wendy is one of Canada’s most experienced and respected film executives with both a strong creative and business background. She is a principal of SK and oversees creative development for the company. She is leading the writing team for SK’s next major IMAX®/Giant Screen production, Amazon Adventure in partnership with Tangled Bank Studios, a division of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She co-wrote the worldwide audience and critical hit Flight of the Butterflies 3D, was Senior Story Editor on the award-winning IMAX®/Giant Screen film, Journey to Mecca: In the footsteps of Ibn Battuta and is the Producer of the award-winning eco-adventure series, The Water Brothers, broadcast in over 45 countries.
Why I love the Monarch Butterfly
[caption id="attachment_31289" align="alignleft" width="300"] Audrey Armstrong with children at Peninsula Shores District School Monarch Waystation, Wiarton ON Photo by Willy Waterton[/caption]
This blog was written by Audrey Armstrong.
Back in 1977, filmmakers Peter and Fran Mellen created a poetic movie, Monarchs, filmed along the Rocky Saugeen River in Grey County, ON. They also travelled to the newly discovered overwintering sites of Monarchs in Michoacan, Mexico to film the amazing story of the Monarchs’ astonishing migration and life cycle. I had recently graduated from the Ontario College of Art and found a job as a researcher with the Mellens. I learned about Monarchs and was hooked by the magnificent butterfly.
Since then, during a 3 decade teaching career, I have incorporated Monarchs in my work with children. Trying to instil the awe and wonder I first found in the meadows of the Saugeen valley, I shared the Monarch story with thousands of children. An enduring lesson, I frequently meet past students who fondly remember Monarchs and the fun we had. As a member of the Monarch Teacher’s Network (MTN), I have been able to reach out to other educators in Ontario, California and Mexico. Through MTN and with fellow educators, I have been an active workshop presenter over the past decade.
Over the last year, I have presented workshops about Creating Monarch Friendly Habitat in places such as the Grey Bruce Area, the Huron Fringe Birding Festival, the Bruce Peninsula National Park BioBlitz, the 6th Annual Monarch Butterfly Festival, Bruce Peninsula National Park and the Georgian Bay Garden Club. Be sure to look for future presentations at places like this on the Monarch Butterfly!
You can also join in the efforts to bring back the Monarch Butterfly by creating Monarch friendly habitat! On December 5th, 2016 the Monarch was moved from species of special concern to threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Jennifer Heron, co-chair of the Arthropods Subcommittee, summed it up:
"We need to continue to support the conservation of milkweed caterpillar habitat both here in Canada and along the Monarch's migratory journey, and we need to support continued conservation of critical overwintering areas. Otherwise, Monarch migration may disappear, and Canada may lose this iconic species."
[caption id="attachment_31288" align="alignright" width="300"] Teachers from the Bluewater District Board of Education at a Teaching and Learning with Monarch Butterflies workshop, through the Monarch Teacher Network, Canada. Location is Peninsula Shores district School, Wiarton ON photo by Willy Waterton.[/caption]
[button link="http://naturecanada.ca/get-involved/take-action/monarch-petition/" size="medium" target="_blank" style="light" color="orange"]Help save the Monarch Butterfly by signing Nature Canada's petition today![/button]
This year’s 2016/17 population statistics will come out near the end of February. Last year’s statistics from the WWF-Mexico and the Reserva Biosfera de la Mariposa Monarca indicate a small increase in the overwintering population compared to 2014/15 record low, but the population remained at 80%, below the historic average. Last year’s population contained only 57 million compared with a long term average of 300 million and a peak of 1 billion. However, a catastrophic snow storm in Mexico’s overwintering sites last March decimated the numbers by possibly 50%, according to Lincoln Brower of Sweet Briar University.
Read about the monarch and recent research on the geographic origins of overwintering monarchs, from the University of Guelph research by Ryan Norris.
What YOU can do?
Attending workshops offers an opportunity to create natural habitat corridors for Monarchs throughout their migration and summer range. As well as learning how to create your own monarch butterfly waystation, you will also attract other pollinators like hummingbirds, bees and other butterflies with native habitat.
Canadian scientists call for greater effort to save Monarch butterflies as their status is reassessed under the Species at Risk Act
This blog was written by Pierre Sadik, our Senior Advisor, Species at Risk.
The plight of the iconic and beautiful Monarch butterfly is still deteriorating as the Canadian government continues to lag its North American partners in helping Monarchs. In December of 2016 the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) reassessed the struggling Monarch under the federal Species at Risk Act and, based on the best available science and data, came to the conclusion that the Monarch butterfly is now a “threatened” species. This represents a dramatic deterioration in assessment status from COSEWIC's previous finding five years ago that the Monarch was only a species of “Special Concern”.
COSEWIC’s assessment will be formally considered by the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change under the Species at Risk Act in the fall of 2017. The Minister is likely to accept COSEWIC’s reassessment and move to formally list the Monarch under SARA as a “Threatened” species. And therein lies an opportunity. Re-classifying Monarch butterflies from Special Concern to the more serious category of Threatened will require the preparation of a federal Action Plan to try to ensure the survival and recovery of the species.
One of the key items for the Minister to include in the Monarch butterfly Action Plan must be meaningful habitat protection here in Canada, including taking steps that finally match the commitment made by our North American partners in Monarch protection.
Monarchs fly over 4,000 kilometres south to Mexico in the fall to overwinter. They breed on their return trip, and their great-grandchildren arrive back in Canada in spring. However, the fragile and tiny wintering grounds in Mexico, where Monarchs congregate, continue to shrink due to habitat loss. A similar jeopardy awaits Monarchs here in Canada, where these insects come for the breeding and nectaring habitat along our southern border.
During the summer months, you can find adult Monarchs feeding on the nectar of wildflowers, while the caterpillars can be found feeding on milkweed plants. The primary threats facing Monarch in Canada include the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides throughout their breeding grounds, and the conversion of breeding and nectaring habitat. But milkweed, which is so essential for egg-laying for Monarchs, is not only considered an agricultural pest in many jurisdictions, but is actively suppressed under weed control regulations in Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia (though it is noteworthy that the Ontario government recently removed Milkweed species from the Weed Control Act).
The U.S., Mexico and Canada recognized the Monarch’s plight in 2014 when they commissioned a tri-national task force to examine the threats to Monarch butterflies. The U.S. government followed up in 2015 by committing $3.2 million to conserve Monarch habitats and expand national milkweed planting programs. Mexico continues to support population monitoring at overwintering areas in the Oyamel highland forests. Meanwhile, the Canadian government has not yet made any significant financial investment in protecting Monarch butterflies or their habitat. The pending Monarch Butterfly Action Plan under the federal Species at Risk Act is the last, best chance the federal government has to get serious about Monarch habitat protection.
[caption id="attachment_22697" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell Director of Conservation and General Counsel[/caption]
It’s been more than two and a half years since the three leaders of North America last met. So it was great that Prime Minister Trudeau, President Obama, and President Nieto gathered in Ottawa last week to sign the North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership Action Plan.
While the Action Plan’s commitments on clean energy and climate received most of the attention, commitments on biodiversity--such as continuing efforts to conserve Monarch Butterflies and their habitat--are also important. During the official announcements on June 29, Presidents Nieto and Obama proudly touched upon the heritage importance of the Monarch Butterfly. The specific mention of the eastern population of Monarchs was a nice surprise in the Action Plan, really emphasizing the trilateral scope of the agreement.
There was however, no specific commitment of resources to biodiversity conservation. If there is a financial commitment, there is always more likely stronger action to accomplish the conservation goals. On the topic of Monarch conservation, last year Nature Canada met with the Mexican ambassador, and also established a petition to get Canada on board with financial backing to conserve the Monarchs. It would be significant for Canada to at least match the US commitment announced in 2015 of US$3.2 million toward habitat expansion. It’s important for Canada to uphold its role in Monarch Butterfly conservation as climate change has already started to disrupt the migration of Monarchs between Mexico and Canada.
Other topics such as protecting migratory birds and species at risk had a fairly weak backing, and grasslands protection and common species recovery were not mentioned at all in the Action Plan.
The leaders also touched on incorporating Indigenous knowledge to be part of informing natural resource management, which is a very interesting and commendable addition to the Action Plan.
Overall the announcements at the North American Leaders Summit had some commendable direction on climate, environment, and conservation but more emphasis and financial back up on the conservation side is needed to implement these goals. It’s important to remember the link of investing in nature conservation and its significant impact on addressing climate change.
Fantastic video of a monarch butterfly emerging from its Chrysalis
Check out this fantastic video of a monarch butterfly emerging from its Chrysalis!
First it was the butterflies, then it was the bees, and now it’s the birds
A specific kind of insecticide has been harming bees worldwide. But it is starting to have a ripple effect.
A study in the Netherlands has shown that there has been a decline in farmland birds. They trace the decline to the use of a particular kind of insecticide known as neonicotinoids on insects. Many birds eat insects or feed it to their young. But if their food has been contaminated then it’s possible for even a single kernel of corn to cause the birds to get sick or even die.
Check out National Geographic's excellent video on neonicotinoids here:
The insecticides are also killing insects, giving birds not enough food to eat. The results could be negative to the effects on the food chain if we don’t stop using neonicotinoids, especially on farmland.
In Canada, Nature Canada is working on solving this problem. We've partnered with the University of Manitoba and York University and local naturalist groups to tag and monitor populations of Purple Martin birds. Nature Canada's Purple Martin Project will hopefully help us understand what role, if any, neonicotinoids have on other species. Click here to learn more.
This is a guest blog post by Courtenay Bettinger, a Nature Canada summer student.