A Tacoma entrepreneur is backing a $50,000 prize for new technology that’d be used to track monarch butterflies.
Eli Moreno said he and his wife are donating half of the prize money and crowdfunding the rest. Moreno, a board member of the Monarch Butterfly Fund, said the current technology to track monarch butterflies doesn’t cut it.
“Currently, you use this adhesive tag, and you attach it to the wings of the butterfly,” he said, adding it’s tough for researchers to find those. “We have no idea what the journey was like, and usually we collect them after they’re dead.”
Moreno said the butterfly’s yearly migration from Canada to Mexico is remarkable.
“We still don’t know why they go there to that particular place. It’s very high in altitude, 10,000 feet over sea level. It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “We’re hoping to understand the migration in greater detail and how to protect that migration.”
The Monarch Butterfly Fund reports decreasing numbers of the insects over the past two decades. In 1996-97, the Monarch Butterfly Fund said there were 18.19 monarchs per hectare, a unit of measurement comparable to 2.47 acres. In 2016-17, the MBF said there were just 2.91 butterflies per hectare.
“We’re still trying to determine what is causing it, so needless to say the environment has a lot to do with it,” said Moreno.
Those answers would be easier to come by if researchers knew the butterfly’s specific path.
The new technology would need to be light enough as not to impact the butterfly’s flight, but would also need some battery or power source to keep in contact with researchers over the 1,000-3,000 mile journey.