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  • Andy Davis

A zoom conversation with insect scientist, Matt Forister, about butterfly trends in the west

Hello folks,

Today I have something new and exciting to share. I just finished a zoom conversation with a scientist who has a new study, and I recorded that conversation and am airing it here!

This is a new chapter in the life of this blog, but one that I think has some great potential. Really, this is just an extension of the overall purpose of the blog, which is to distill down the science and present it in a way that everyday people can understand. Hopefully, this video does just that.

So, the topic of today is a new study about long-term changes in butterfly populations in the western U.S., which was just published in the prestigious journal, Science, this month. Here is a link to the paper. The paper was a group effort by a number of leading researchers in the field of insect conservation, and the lead author was Dr. Matt Forister, from the University of Nevada. Here is a link to the Forister lab.

I sat down (virtually on zoom) with Matt to discuss this new study, plus other issues related to monarchs in the west. Check it out...

It was great to chat with Matt about this new project, as well as about other issues related to monarchs too. If it helps, I'll add some bullet-list points here that more or less summarize this chat:

- This new study summarized citizen-science data on about 200 species of butterflies throughout the American west, and showed that while some species are experiencing increases in their populations, the majority are experiencing declines in the west.

- Monarchs are among the ones that are declining, by about 1% per year, based on counts of monarchs in the summer (this is not necessarily the same magnitude of decline seen in counts of wintering monarchs). Note - Matt stated in the video that it might be between 1.25% and 1.5%, but he actually looked this up afterward and it is really about 1% per year.

- Given that most of the survey sites were in areas not impacted by landscape changes, the reason for the decline appears to be because of changing climate - i.e. warming fall temperatures.

- This result is consistent with an even newer study that was just published last week (and which Matt just read last night), and that also examined citizen science data on butterflies. That newer study though showed that the majority of butterfly declines are largely in the west, while butterflies in other regions (like the southeast) appear to be largely increasing in abundance. In other words, in some places butterflies are doing well, and in others, not so well.

We ended the conversation with some general musings about what this means for butterfly, and monarch, conservation. Spoiler alert - we don't know!

Anyway, thanks for watching! Stay tuned for more video conversations like this too...



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The science of monarch butterflies

A blog about monarchs, written by a monarch scientist, for people who love monarchs

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