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Aerial photo of the El Rosario Monarch Colony, Mexico.
Photo by L.P. Brower on February 26, 1999.

Coming Soon...Spring!?

Here it is mid-February, and my office window has been open this whole week. These unseasonably warm days do not seem "normal" to me. However, since I have not been documenting these "first signs of spring" as part of the National Phenology Network's incredible phenology tracking project, I cannot use data to back up my claim that spring is arriving early!

In actuality, I would not document and report when I first open my office window each year. However, most of us do make general observations regarding spring's arrival- when the first crocus blooms, the first monarch sighting, when we first hear bullfrogs, when apple trees or lilacs bloom, or even when allergy season starts. So, why not take a few minutes to report what you and your students observe in your garden each spring, and contribute to an extremely important scientific database? If you need more of a focus, USA-NPN has a specific campaign- Nectar Connectors- to obtain data on pollinator plants. Knowing when and where nectar sources are available for monarchs and other important pollinators across the country is vital in driving conservation-related policy.

The USA National Phenology Network serves science and society by promoting broad understanding of plant and animal phenology and its relationship with environmental change. Nature's Notebook is the USA-PNP project to connect people with nature to benefit our changing planet. Teachers, students, researchers, and volunteers collect and report standardized ground observations of phenology. To participate in this important scientific research, click on the link above. Setting up an account is super easy, as is reporting your data. There's even an app for quick reporting while in the field! And don't forget to share your experiences in our forum, the backbone of this Monarch Waystation Network!

*Some email browsers, such as Outlook, may distort your view of this newsletter or may even not show the pictures. If this occurs, simply click "View this email in your browser" at the top, and it should render the correct viewing. Please let me know if problems still exist.

Student Challenge: When is the "start of spring"? 
When is the "start of spring"? And what does that even mean? What are the 14 indicators of climate change released by the US Global Change and Research Program in 2015? What are some ways they are used to guide policy making? How are teachers and students across the country learning about phenology, and participating in scientific phenological research in their school gardens and Waystations? Why is it important to observe and document the "start of spring" each year? What is the Start of Spring indicator? How do these data inform us about our changing planet? 

How can you and your students contribute to this huge bank of extremely important scientific data? Click the link to learn more about the USA-NPN Nature's Notebook project, and don't forget to share your discoveries in our forum!
News from Mexico! 
Monarch Population Count
The official 2016-17 monarch population figures have been released. World Wildlife Fund Mexico in collaboration with SEMARNAT and CONANP and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR) announced the total forest area occupied by overwintering monarch colonies. Thirteen (13) colonies were located this winter season with a total area of 2.91 hectares. Click the graph to open a larger view. The potential uses of this graph in your classrooms seem infinite! Be sure to use our forum to share the ways you successfully incorporated in in your class!

Student Challenge: Overwintering Monarchs 
We all know the monarch migration is certainly spectacular. Equally impressive is how the monarchs survive four months in their overwintering sites. Monarchs overwinter in the oyamel fir forests of Michoacon, Mexico. This unique, mountain habitat occurs between 7,800 feet and 11,000 feet above sea level. There are only 12-13 roosting sites scattered in this 73 mile wide region of Transvolcanic mountains. 

So, what do monarchs do while overwintering in these forests? What is their behavior like? How do they survive the winter at that altitude? How do they know it is time to leave the roosting sites and begin migrating north? 

These are all great questions I have received from various students that could be discussion starters for you and your students. Since the Monarch Waystation Network encourages self-exploration and discovery, instead of providing answers, here are some resources to get you/your students started! Make sure to share your discoveries in our forum!

The overwintering season:

Facts about the oyamel fir forests:

Monarch migration and overwintering:

Migration and overwintering:

Monarch Facts:
More News from Mexico! 
As the spring monarch migration season gets underway, our friends at Journey North share weekly news updates! As these updates are released, I will share them through the Monarch Waystation Network newsletter and website. You can also subscribe to receive the weekly updates directly from Journey North. Here is the latest update, which provides a wealth of information about the population, this year's count, how the population is measured, and much more:
Population Count is in...

The El Rosario Sanctuary contains 40% of this winter's population.
Photo by Estela Romero and courtesy of Journey North
 School News and Highlights
Need some inspiration? 

Check out the incredible work of Kelly Osborne and the staff, students and community of Top of the World Elementary School in Laguna Beach, CA! Their monthly newsletter is always packed full of goodness:) Thanks, Kelly, for keeping us here at Monarch Watch aware of your awesome outdoor classroom!!
Latest Issue
Archived Issues

Students at Top of the World Elementary move a raised bed frame in their garden.

*I would love to highlight all of your and your student's efforts in our newsletter and/or on our website! Please email me your pictures and any pertinent information! This is a great way to promote your projects, get some recognition, and show your administrators that what you are doing is really great! 

Grants and Such
1) Free Milkweeds for Schools and Nonprofits
Funding for Monarch Watch's Free Milkweeds for Schools and Nonprofits program was refunded! We will be distributing milkweed plants to approximately 190 schools and educational nonprofits again in 2017. Click the following link to learn more:
Free Milkweed for Schools and Nonprofits


2) National Wildlife Federation's Garden for Wildlife

The National Wildlife Federation and Subaru are partnering to award free gardens to schools. Click the following link for more information:
Garden for Wildlife

And for those of you in Missouri...

3) Missouri Prairie Foundation
Prairie Garden Grant

*If any of you learn about grants other educators may be interested in, please share the information in our forum or email me so I can spread the word!

Parting Words
Next Issue...
With spring approaching, many of you will be taking your students into your gardens soon. And believe it or not, monarchs will begin migrating north before long. This exciting time provides copious opportunities for me to support you and your students. Please take advantage of this free support and be in touch! Also, my goal is to begin sending newsletters more frequently. They may be shorter, but will continue offering quick tips, resources, lesson/discussion ideas, garden maintenance tasks, and ways to get involved with other great organizations like the National Phenology Network and Journey North.
Follow the link below to view previous issues, or to tell others whom you feel would benefit from receiving our newsletters. Thank you for sharing the word!
Thanks to the following for your contributions to this newsletter:
-National Phenology Network
-Journey North
-Kelly Osborne and the TOW Elementary Community
-Monarch Watch staff
-Dr. Lincoln Brower
Thank you all for everything you do! You are part of the solution, and your energy truly makes this world a better place:)
Copyright © 2017 Monarch Waystation Network, All rights reserved.

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