Synthetic Genetic Shakespeares

My grandchildren will travel through the American Midwest this summer and their professor grandfather has given them an assignment – be on the lookout for migratory monarch butterflies.  Big, orange and black with some white spots, they are easy to see.  The problem this year is monarchs might be hard to find.  My fear is that this could be the last chance my grand kids will get to see these remarkable insect travelers.

MonarchMigratory monarch butterfly populations are under threat; combined changes in farming practices, habitat loss and capricious weather conditions imperil their survival (1, 2).  As butterfly numbers dwindle the risk grows that something as simple – and probable – as an extended cold spell at their over-wintering sites in Mexico could turn catastrophic.  While much concern has been focused on Mexico, a failure to preserve monarch butterfly habitat in the U. S. and Canada could also end the…

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