Lincoln P. Brower, a leading monarchist expert, spent six decades exploring the life cycle of the delicate orange-and-black insect, and later made efforts to maintain his winter quarters in a mountainous region of Mexico, died on the 17th July at his home in Nelson County, Virginia. He was 86 years old.
He had Parkinson's disease, said his wife Linda S. Fink.
Dr. Brower, who taught at Amherst College, Massachusetts and the University of Florida, before becoming research professor at Sweet Briar College, Virginia in 1997, began studying the monarch butterfly in the 1
He made key discoveries about how he could protect himself by converting a toxic compound from their only food source, the milkweed plant, into a chemical compound that made their predators, mainly birds, sick.
In the 1970s, other scientists discovered that monarchs had extraordinary migratory powers, more like birds or whales than insects. Every autumn, monarchs from the east of the Rocky Mountains travel thousands of miles into a Mexican forest where they spend the winter. Monarchs from western North America migrate to California.
"It's the most complicated migration of a known insect," Dr. Brower 1998 opposite the Chicago Tribune. "Somehow each year they know how to get to the same trees, it's a very specific behavior that is unique to the monarch butterfly."
Three to four generations of monarchs need the one-year lifecycle. After migrating to Mexico, the butterflies begin their return journey to North America, and on the way a new generation is born, which grows from larvae to caterpillars before departure.
With the arrival of the colder weather in autumn, the great grandchildren of the monarchs, who flew south last year, will travel the same way and return to the mountain slopes visited by their ancestors.
"It's an inherited pattern of behavior and a navigation system that we do not really understand," said Dr Brower in 2007. "We do not know exactly how to find their way, we do not know how to know where to stop . "
Dr. For the first time in 1977, Brower visited the winter quarters of the monarchs in a Mexican forest, about 80 to 100 miles west of Mexico City. At an altitude of 9,500 to 11,000 feet, large fir trees were completely covered by hundreds of millions of butterflies.  When they move their wings, "it somehow sounds like leaves that blow in the fall," Dr. Brower & # 39; s son, Andrew Brower, a biologist and butterfly expert at Middle Tennessee State University, in an interview. You're looking up, and the sky is blue, but then it's orange, it's like an orange glass window over your head. "
During more than 50 trips to Mexico to study monarchs, Dr , Brower to see their numbers shrinking. Their mountain habitat is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and ecotourists have teamed up to save the region from development. However, trees continue to be cut down by loggers or burned down by farmers.
Brower points out that the monarchs have another problem with the increasing use of herbicides that have eliminated much of their food source, "What we're going to lose," Dr. Brower 1998, "is this incredibly beautiful migration and everything that goes with it, so I called this beautiful syndrome of the migration and hibernation cycle a" dangerous biological phenomenon. "
There are still millions of monarchs in North America, but their numbers vary from year to year, and the numbers are rising, in some cases falling by as much as 90 percent since the 1980s.
Dr. Brower joined efforts by environmental groups to identify the monarch as a "threatened" species
"Why should that interest us?" Dr. Brower told the Washington Post in 2005. "For the same reasons, we should look after the Mona Lisa or the beauty of Mozart's music.
Lincoln Pierson Brower was born in Madison, New Jersey, on September 10, 1931. His parents had a nursery and a rose-growing business.
He was 5 when he took note of an American copper butterfly that was on a clover
"I just stared at this little butterfly and it was so nice for me," he once told NPR. "And that was the beginning."
He graduated from Princeton University in 1952 and received his PhD in zoology from Yale University in 1957. Some of his early scientific work was written with his first wife, the former Jane Van Zandt.
This marriage ended in divorce, as did a second with Christine Moffitt.
The survivors include his 27-year-old wife, Linda S. Fink, a professor of ecology at Sweet Briar College and a frequent research associate, two children from his first marriage, Andrew Brower Christiana, Tenn., and Tamsin Barrett of Salem, N.H .; a brother; and two grandchildren.
Dr. Brower edited two books and was the author or co-author of more than 200 scientific studies. In 2016 he received the E.O. Wilson Award for his work to receive the monarch from the Center for Biodiversity. He also received an award from the Mexican government.
In 1998, Dr. Brower on his first visit to the winter quarters of the monarchs in the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico.
"Suddenly the color of the trees changed," he told the Tribune. "I did not know what I saw, it was like a wall that changed from green to gray, they were wings of monarchs that were folded as they were roasted – the bottom of their wings is gray.
" Here was this wall of butterflies, and I just could not believe it. For the first time in my life, I saw millions of monarch butterflies right in front of me. They covered the trees, they were everywhere on the branches. They were at the tribes. They were on their limbs. They were on the bushes. They were everywhere. It is one of the most wonderful sights that can be seen in the biological world. "