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Studying the Smallest Creatures Makes a Big Impact

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Created: 11/2/2018      Updated: 11/2/2018

A few Chicago monarchs in research study due at Day of the Dead this week in Mexico

Their journey is precarious. It requires evading predators; enduring severe weather and food shortages; and crossing nearly 3,000 miles, one flutter after another. Yet they persist, and this week monarch butterflies from our Chicago region begin arriving in Mexico, just in time for Day of the Dead, when families remember those who have died and support their spiritual journey. The arrival of the long-traveled monarchs seems to magically coincide with this annual observance.   

We hope that a few of the monarchs arriving in Mexico include some specially tagged butterflies that we released here at the Nature Museum during our Flutter into Fall festival on September 22.  As part of a collective research study of monarch migrations, tiny stickers with information to assist in scientific data collection are attached to the wings of a select few butterflies, that may be found in Mexico. The research helps us learn more about the mysteries of the monarchs and their great migration to the mountainous butterfly reserves in Central Mexico where they winter.

This is just one of the many butterfly research projects our science team members at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum / Chicago Academy of Sciences manage and support. We also are doing critical work with other Chicago-region species which you may know.

Earlier this summer I put on my waders and joined our team in the field when they monitored a wood frog study and smooth greensnake reintroduction and research project in Chicago area natural areas.

While tiny brown frogs, slender greensnakes, bumble bees and fragile butterflies may seem small in the world of wildlife, they each represent an important species that is threatened by changes in the environment and by loss of safe places to live. Our conservation research team is committed to doing all we can to saving these beautiful, vulnerable, and amazing creatures, and I invite everyone who cares about nature to join us.

When you visit the Nature Museum you can see these amphibians, reptiles, and insects up close and learn about what we can collectively do to protect them here in our region. Perhaps even in your own backyard.

And while our Chicago region’s monarchs are wintering in Mexico, remember that there are always butterflies to experience in the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven.

I look forward to seeing you here soon!

Deborah Lahey, President & CEO

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