Butterfly Migration (Part 2/2)

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Objective

Students will use the North American monarch butterfly migration as evidence of successful social interactions that help maintain species survival.

Big Idea

Students will explore several citizen science programs to better understand the North American monarch butterfly migration.

What Students will Learn in this Lesson

1 minutes

Students will explore several peer reviewed paper about the North American monarch butterfly migration.  They will also navigate through several Citizen Science websites that allow laymen to get involved in the collection of data. Here is an overview of what students will learn today. This is the second day of a two day lesson.

Hook/Check for Understanding

5 minutes

Using a Wordle generated from student responses from yesterday, summarize the importance group behaviors/social interactions that butterflies employ to survive and successfully reproduce.

(Note: Here is a sample student response.)

 

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project

15 minutes

To understand how scientists describe the North American monarch butterfly migration as they do, students should first visit the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project to look at collected data and determine when monarch are passing through certain states. While there are many states that collect data and have collected data, the most rich databases are found from Texas, Minnesota, and Ontario. For this activity, students will be viewing those databases because they cover multiple years with few breaks in the collection of data.  

First, students should select the state that they want to observe. Next, they should select the year 2014 and then select view data.  Finally, students should select the export to Excel icon. The data will be downloaded and opened in an Excel file

Students should determine the mean number of eggs and different instars per month. Next, students should determine the median and standard deviation. Students should determine the mean number of plant counted per month as well as the median and standard deviation. Finally, so as to be able to compare from one site to the next, students should determine the monarch egg and larval density per plant.  

Students should use the egg and larval density per plant data to construct a graph contain the density of these over time. (Note: I have my students prepare a graph in LoggerPro and include their summary with the graph.)  

Students should summarize when the monitoring for monarchs occurred at each site as well as the number of egg and larva that were found at each site. Students should prepare a short summary of their findings in their lab notebooks to share with the rest of the class.

Journey North

15 minutes

The Journey North monitors the migration of adult monarch butterflies from Mexico to Canada. Students should analyze the 2014 migration for this exercise. Have students select the animated map and view it several times. Next, students should select several sites by double clicking on the icons. A new window will open with specifics about each sighting. Students should consider the following questions.  

  • Where were the first sightings of adult monarch butterflies?

Possible student answers:  During 2014, the first sighting of adult monarch butterflies were in Mexico.  

  • What date were they first seen in Texas?

Possible student answers: The first adult monarchs were not seen in Texas until mid March. 

  • What date were they first seen in Northeast Kansas?

Possible student answers: The first adult monarchs were not seen in Northeast Kansas until April.   

  • How many monarchs are typically reported in each sighting?

Possible student answers: It varies depending on the information given by citizen scientists. 

  • When were monarchs first sighted in Minnesota?

Possible student answers: Monarchs were first sighted in Minnesota at the end of May. 

  • When were adult monarchs first sighted in Ontario?

Possible student answers: Monarchs were first sighted in Ontario in June. 

  • How many total sightings were recorded in 2014?

Possible student answers: There were thousands of sighting recorded in 2014.  

  • How useful is this data? How could scientists use this data in their study of the monarch migration?

Possible student answers: Scientists cannot be everyone at once especially over an area of thousands of miles.By having many people watching for monarchs, scientists can use citizen science data with their own data collected about monarchs. 

 

Are there other factors affecting the migration?

15 minutes

Students will look at data from the Monarch Health website to determine if there are other factors besides habitat loss that are affecting the ability of monarchs to migrate. Students will look at the data for 2012 and 2013. Students will make six maps (early, middle, and late) that show the changes in the incidence of OE as the breeding progresses. 

Students should consider the following questions:

  • What happens to the incidence of OE as the breeding season progresses?

Possible students answers: At the beginning of the breeding season, there is little evidence of OE. During the middle of the breeding season, incidence of OE spikes in the Midwest and Northeast. The incidence of OE during the end of breeding season decreases slighting in the Midwest and a great deal in the Northeast. The incidence of OE only appears in the South at the end of the breeding season.  

  • What might explain that trend?

Possible students answers: As more adult butterflies show up in an area, it is easier to spread the parasite because the population density is higher.

  • How do these findings compare to what you know about the butterfly migration through the Central Flyway?

Possible students answers: Early breeding season is defined as April 1 to April 30. Middle breeding season is defined as July 1 to August 15. Late breeding season is defined as August 16 to October 31. In the Midwest, adult monarchs are just beginning to arrive to the area in the April. The adult population density is at its highest. It would be easiest to get the parasite. Adults monarchs are moving out of the Midwest by the end of August and so would not be in the area.   

Next, students should select the link for the 2013 raw data.  

  • How many different states are butterflies being collected?  

Possible students answers: In the South, four states are collecting data.  In the Northeast, four states and one province in Canada are collecting data. In the Midwest, seven states and one province in Canada are collecting data. 

  • How many butterflies are being collected?

Possible students answers: 1,549 butterflies were collected in 2013. 

  • What is the range in number of butterflies being collected?

Possible students answers: The smallest number of butterflies that was collected was one.  The largest number of butterflies that were collected was 278.  

  • How could this number affect the findings?

Possible students answers: The data could be skewed because of the wide range in data.  

Students should also do the same for the 2012 raw data.

  • How many different states are butterflies being collected?  

Possible students answers: Possible students answers: In the South, four states are collecting data. In the Northeast, four states and one province in Canada are collecting data. In the Midwest, seven states and one province in Canada are collecting data. 

  • How many butterflies are being collected?

Possible students answers: 1,638 butterflies were collected in 2012. 

  • What is the range in number of butterflies being collected?

Possible students answers: The lowest number of butterflies collected was 1 and the highest number was 159.  

  • How could this number affect the findings?

Possible students answers: Possible students answers: The data could be skewed because of the wide range in data.  

 

Next, students should compare their graphs with the historic data and consider the following questions.

  • What is the trend in occurrence of heavily infected butterflies over the past five years?

Possible students answers: The occurrence of OE is increasing. 

  • What are some explanations for  this trend?

Possible students answers: More butterflies are getting OE and spreading it to other butterflies. The temperatures during the winter are unseasonably warm and the parasite is not dying off during the winter. 

  • How can this study be improved?

Possible students answers: People helping with this project need to collect more butterflies. 

Putting it All Together: The Migration of the Super Generation

15 minutes

Using this link, have students look at the migratory pathway of the fourth generation of monarch butterfly that migrate from Canada to Mexico every year. Students will compare their findings with this information. Students should consider the following questions and record their answers in their lab notebook.

  • Why is it important to monitor both the adult monarchs and the larval forms of monarchs at each site?

Possible student answers: All of the monarchs life stages need to be monitored to determine if we are simply seeing an organism living out its life cycle in an area or if we are seeing an organism that is simply "passing through" an area. 

  • Why is it important to collect data every year?  What might happen if a year is skipped?

Possible student answers: Data needs to be collected every year for many years so we can determine what normal is. If a year is skipped we have breaks in the data and do not know if we are seeing an outlier or if the population is being affected. 

  • Why is citizen science important in the understanding of the monarch migration?

Possible student answers: Science can be very expensive and it can take a lot of time. Scientists do not have the time or the resources to be everywhere in the area where this migration takes place. It is too big of an area. If they can get help from the general public, then they can maximize their resources.