Models are a great tool.  We love models [at least Duane does]. From weather to wildlife, models can integrate multiple factors to help us understand and, more importantly, predict what might happen.  Models operate in the virtual world.  But how do we know if it translates to the real one?

The answer: Ground truthing

By definition, to ground truth is to confirm or validate predictions derived indirectly (say from a model) by using direct observation.  If a predictive model cannot accurately predict then it is of little use.

Each fall, monarch butteries begin a 3,000-mile journey to wintering grounds in Mexico.  The number of successful journeys of monarchs has fallen by 90% in the last 2 decades.  During migration, monarchs use overnight roosts on their way south.  Research has shown that there are few roost sightings in the “eastern” flyway. The journey of eastern monarchs occurs later than the main “central” flyway and scientists have obtained few recoveries of tagged monarchs at the wintering area in Mexico. The concern is that monarchs traveling in our flyway have a reduced chance of making it to their final destination.

So what’s standing in the way of eastern monarchs and their tropical vacation?  Perhaps there is no safe place to spend the night on their very long road trip.  If we knew where suitable habitat does and does not exist, it might help with conservation efforts.

Enter our colleagues at the USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit in Maine who developed a model to predict where monarch butterfly stopovers might occur during their fall migration in the eastern U.S.  

Great!  So we have a model, but does it work?

You can help answer that question! 

The USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit in Maine is looking for people just like YOU to help ground truth their model.  Get all the info HERE. 

Now here’s a reason to get off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and put your smartphone to good use!

Help track monarchs in the U.S.  Our only royalty!

-Jeannine Fleegle
Wildlife Biologist
PGC Deer and Elk Section


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