Megan E. Zagorski '16, Gettysburg College

Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2016


Latin American Studies


The annual migration of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is a natural phenomenon widely integrated into the popular and social imagination of North America. However, this migratory population has recently declined. I investigated the threat of climate change on the future distribution of suitable monarch habitat, using ArcGIS to create a model of current and future monarch habitat. I also analyzed municipal data for 5 communities in Mexico State in an examination of the social aspects of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve [MBBR]. According to my model, an estimated 38.6% to 69.8% of current monarch habitat may be lost within the MBBR by 2050, potentially affecting 14 of the 19 current colonies, while throughout the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, 52% to 76% of suitable habitat could disappear. Most members of these 5 communities work in the agriculture and service sectors, and all but one reported a tourist infrastructure. The potentially large losses in suitable habitat question the effectiveness of protected areas in the face of climate change, and suggest the need to develop a more resilient strategy to protect both natural and social aspects of the monarch migration.


Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies Senior Thesis