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Scientists Request Help Tracking Monarch Butterflies


This spring is a season like no other. But if you step out of the house while keeping a proper distance from other people, you will see that nature is still functioning. And you have a chance to help scientists who are studying butterflies. They are hoping to solve a mystery. Where are the monarchs going - specifically, one kind of monarch?

CHERYL SCHULTZ: Western monarchs spend the winter on coastal grove along the California coast. And they fan out across the West in areas that are west of the Rocky Mountains to breed.

INSKEEP: Cheryl Schultz is the biologist who leads the Western Monarch Mystery project.


She says scientists have been worried about monarchs for about two years because two years ago, the number of monarchs just plummeted all of a sudden.

SCHULTZ: Something happened between when they left the wintering ground in 2017, 2018 and when they arrived at the breeding sites in the summer of 2018.

KING: So she and her colleagues are calling on the public to figure out what that something was. They're asking people to take pictures of monarch butterflies right now.

INSKEEP: These are the butterflies with those recognizable orange wings laced with black lines. You can email your photo or use an app called iNaturalist to help out the Western Monarch Mystery project.

SCHULTZ: It's really fun. We have gotten an enormous response.

INSKEEP: And Schultz says, don't worry if the photos are blurry or imperfect because they just want to see as many monarchs as they can up until late April.

KING: So if you are out west and you're self-quarantining, take a look outside your window. You could help solve this mystery.

(SOUNDBITE OF WILD NOTHING SONG, "REICHPOP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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