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Author & Teacher


Humans and

monarch butterflies

across North America



Columba Gonzalez 2023

Columba Gonzalez-Duarte PhD.

“I aim to bring to my students and future research projects something I call eco-social justice: How can we achieve justice for humans and non-humans alike?”

Pursuing a greater understanding of the relationship between monarch butterflies and the people and communities they interact with has carried Dr. Columba Gonzalez-Duarte far, connecting her roots in Mexico to Toronto and to her new home in Halifax.


She holds a PhD degree, in socio-cultural anthropology, from the University of Toronto, with a collaborative degree at the School of Environment. After graduating in 2019, she gained a postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. She is now an Assistant Professor with Mount Saint Vincent University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Through her research, Columba explores the monarch butterfly’s tri-national conservation dynamics, exploring connections between NAFTA’s agri-food industry, labour migration, and monarch decline. She has also worked with Indigenous communities that co-habit with the butterfly across Canada, the United States and Mexico, documenting their knowledge and ways of relating with the migratory insect. This work is an example of multi-sited and multi-species field work.

Since joining MSVU in spring 2020, Columba has been initiating her teaching practice while continuing work on her research project, Convergent Migrations, as well as finishing a book based on her doctoral research. Moving forward, there’s an aspect of social justice she wants to bring to MSVU, to her students and future research – something she calls eco-social justice: how to achieve justice for humans and non-humans. The butterfly project allows her to explore this in a context of ‘thinking beyond borders’ – national borders, and those borders that we construe between human and non-humans.

This bio was taken from MSVU Media Centre

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is the best known and most cared-for insect in North America. For millennia, monarchs have inhabited and moved between what are now the sovereign territories of three different nations, performing a 4000-km migratory loop that links distinct habitats.


The monarch butterfly faces threats to its survival all along the migratory path. These threats have deepened since the signing of NAFTA due to the agreement's role in facilitating the expansion of herbicides that are toxic to milkweed, a plant crucial to monarchs, but also profoundly problematic as an agro-business model for humans.


Convergent Migrations is an ethnographic multi-sited research project that follows humans and nonhumans' mobilities across the rough pathway through which the migrant monarch lives and dies. It explores these entangled trajectories and how they speak to an eco-social crisis in North America that is particularly visible at the sites of study.


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