In this map, I assembled the monarch migration depicting how it occurs through different generations. I marked a line where 'milkweed country' starts. Although milkweed habitat does not have a clear cut in real life, the ecological boundary exists. It explains why monarchs move beyond environmental, and now national borders, always in relation to their dependency on this native plant.
As a social researcher analyzing this migration, I look at the entangled relations with humans. How are some human practices enabling and halting this migration and vice-versa? What can we learn of monarchs and milkweed co-evolution amid an ecological crisis for North Americans?
Around 20,000 years ago the migration of milkweed (Asclepias), a rhizome root plant and monarch’s host organism, to northern territories generated a more extended migration of monarchs and consequently the differentiated generations.
While records have been kept for monarch migration since 1994, the first fieldwork season (2012-2014) was the lowest ever recorded for overall monarch migration. Therefore, the fieldwork became much more about the absence of monarchs than the expected presence of the insect at each of my sites. It was hard to readjust the research plans to accommodate having “no” monarchs around. For example, the Point Pelee social event for counting monarchs was called off both the two summers I lived inside the National Park; and the sanctuaries to see monarchs in hibernation in Mexico opened to the public and for me to conduct “social research” much later than what was expected. This lead to a readjustment of all the local activities and my own plans. The U.S.–Mexico border monarch events ultimately closed, and consequently I ended up not conducting fieldwork along that border as I had planned. However, in exchange for all these adjustments, the insect’s absence moved people to talk about the monarch problem and to connect the “dots” across the flyway corridor. I witnessed a transition in how people switched from appreciating monarchs as a local insect to perceiving them as a migrant insect facing challenges to their survival along the whole migratory route.
This map reflects the meeting of actors, migrations, and my own mobility following monarchs according to their migratory pattern.
This map shows the sites and agencies through which the research takes place. With author’s additions the map signals, in magenta, the four fieldwork sites: Monarch Lab, Point Pelee, MBBR and D-Plex (online community).
It also includes the other nonhuman actors associated with the research: corn and milkweed.
The interactive map is a result of a team consultancy project for the Commission on Environment Cooperation documenting the historical and present registers of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge involving monarch butterflies in the indigenous communities that inhabit this corridor. The findings illuminate a long-term relationship between the butterfly, its host plant, and the diverse array of humans that symbolically and materially interact with the plant and butterfly. The team of researchers created this map as a base line to continue the project.
A per-review piece on the findings is currently under production as a joined authorship with Dr. Roberto Mendez.
The map shows the indigenous groups that report knowledge related to monarchs and milkweed across de East and West flyway route.
The map contains author’s additions to an 1812’s map of “Upper Canada.” The red arrows signals the portage route of European traders departing from Kingston and ending in Point Pelee. Essex county is also signaled showing how, by 1812, the County was already sketched as a settlers’ land (Toronto Reference library 912.7 T13)
By the time I conducted fieldwork in Point Pelee, Essex county was known as “Tomato capital.” Part of my research unearths those superimposed and sometimes mixed stratifications at the sites of study. I connect British colonial land grabbing to the current Tomato Capital and how that agroecology has displaced indigenous groups, attracted seasonal migrant workers from Mexico and affected monarch habitat. All occurring around a Protected Area that is an emblematic National Park demarking the US/Canada border.
The red arrows signals the portage route of European traders departing from Kingston and ending in Point Pelee.
Maps capture human-nonhuman mobilities across time and space, yet as maps are human-made, one should see them as fabrications of a desired world arrangement (Houtum 2012,410). More than precise ‘realities,’ socio-maps register stratas; mixed layers of human and nonhuman relations across time and space. The sociomaps shown here are examples of the way maps are useful for inter-species research.