Following the Flight of the Monarchs

This project develops innovative technical and citizen science approaches to increase the resilience of monarch butterfly migration routes between Mexico and northern North America.
A trans-disciplinary team from Mexico, the US, Canada and United Kingdom will support the installation of open microphones operated by local groups at key locations along the butterflies’ 2 main flyways, which follow the East and West coasts. The open microphones stream live sounds to the internet, providing compelling real-time links with the fragile local ecosystems the butterflies depend on. 
Each microphone acts as a focal point to catalyze local engagement around sustainability, as at the pilot site in Cerro Pelón, State of Mexico, where the microphone is operated by a training programme for young arborists. The streams have the potential to increase awareness and action on local environmental pressures, and the complex cross-border inter-linkages which can alternately threaten or support the monarchs’ survival. It is envisaged that they will increase joined-up working between sites, attract funding to support butterfly conservation via online donations, and offer a way for a wider public, including students, school children, those with limited mobility and new online audiences, to become aware of the ecologies of each site. The streams operate 24/7, giving access to a wide range of environmental sounds, including songs and calls of birds, amphibians and invertebrates.

The first stage of the project has focused on supporting people in Cerro Pelón, Mexico, to build a sustainable local economy through preservation of the Monarch butterfly and its roosting grounds. Working with our partners UNESCO Biosphere Soundscapes and SoundCamp, we are using live-streaming sound equipment to help monitor the butterflies’ flight behaviour and threats to their habitat, as well as creating engaging sound art, which allows people worldwide to listen to the sounds of the Monarchs and the forest where they live. We have been working with the Butterflies and Their People Arborists scheme, connecting with people in the region to train and employ them as arborists, for long-term economic and environmental sustainability. The arborists will use the sound equipment we install to help monitor the forest and protect the Monarchs’ habitat. Through direct collaboration with local researchers and development partners, this project supports sustainable economic development and the conservation of this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Monika Maeckle at the Texas Butterfly Ranch has written a blog post about our recent fieldtrip, complete with photo documentation and a link to the live stream on the Locus Sonus Soundmap.

Also, here is a recent installation we made about the Monarchs:


And a presentation that project lead, Rob Mackay gave at the Ecoacoustics Congress in Brisbane in June 2018:

You can listen to the livestream here.

Or view the whole Locus Sonus Soundmap to listen to live streams from around the world.