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Ecology and Environment week participants discover the world’s greatest traveller
Encounters’ participants will never again look at the Monarch butterfly in the same way. After taking part in Ecology and Environment week, these young ecologists have gained a new perspective on this remarkable species with the beautiful orange and black wings, one of the most well-known and beloved butterflies in North America.
Recent guest speaker, Canadian biologist Jean Lauriault, is a man with a profound passion for nature, well-traveled and a species protector. He recently spoke to our participants about the wonders of the Monarch. Mr. Lauriault, who has authored and coauthored several books on biodiversity and tree identification, worked with the Canadian Museum of Nature for over 30 years. For the last 17 years, he has made it his passion and mission to protect the Monarch butterfly.
“This butterfly barely weighs half a gram. Unlike birds, it migrates south alone, covers a distance of 100 kilometres per day, travels from North America to Mexico to hibernate in a specific habitat - and all this without GPS!” said the biologist. It is this spectacular phenomenon of the Monarch butterflies’ migration which so clearly fascinates our guest speaker.
Although now retired, Mr. Lauriault told participants that he still continues his work. Each winter, he travels to Mexico with other researchers and devotees to gain a better understanding of this mysterious butterfly. They climb to isolated forests situated in central Mexico, where Monarch butterflies converge in the millions, to observe them. “Just imagine the number when the tree branches literally bend from the weight of these tiny creatures!” Even so, researchers are well aware that, because of deforestation and climate changes, the number has declined. One of Mr. Landriault’s main objectives is to raise awareness - to protect this species for future generations. “Each species is important on our planet - to not break the cycle.”
Participants had a chance to see samples of the Monarch butterfly, to learn about its unique features, the difference between males and females, its metamorphosis, its food, its predators and the threats that make it vulnerable. Mr. Lauriault concluded: “There are thousands of butterflies in Canada for which we only know the name. It’s now up to you to discover these other species.”
Our young ecologists went from discovery to discovery throughout the week. They took part in workshops on agriculture and its impact on the environment, learned how to make eco-friendly soap, explored the flora and fauna on an ecological reserve with nature guides, and so much more. Overall it was an informative and eye-opening week for Canada’s next generation of budding biologists, environmentalists, ecologists, and protectors of our planet.