It was a mystery no scientist had ever solved, until U of T Scarborough Zoologist Fred Urquhart built a network of “citizen scientists,” long before the term was in vogue, and found the answer to global acclaim.
Urquhart had loved butterflies since childhood; the migration of the beautiful Monarch butterfly became his intellectual obsession. He devised a way of tagging monarchs with a tiny numbered label. Together with his wife and research partner Norah Patterson, he recruited people from all over the continent to his Insect Migration Society, to help with tagging and sightings. Over decades they mapped the migration first to Texas and finally to Mexico.
The Urquhart’s work is immortalized in the award-winning IMAX movie Flight of the Butterflies. The Insect Migration Society, now known as Monarch Watch, leads international efforts to preserve Mexico’s high-altitude forests, which are threatened by logging, climate change and tourism.