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Remembering Lincoln Brower, a world renowned monarch conservation leader

Jul 20, 2018


  • Conservation Stories

It is with great sadness we share the news of the passing of Lincoln Brower, a world renowned monarch biology and conservation leader. A few individuals from MJV Partner organizations who knew Lincoln well as a close friend, colleague, and mentor, shared sentiments about Lincoln’s dedication and important role in laying the foundation for monarch conservation.

In response to his passing, Elizabeth Howard, from Journey North, shares a beautiful memorial tribute – “What a loss of a wonderful human being, colleague, mentor, and friend. He inspired us, challenged us, fed our curiosity, made us laugh, and now cry. He kept his passion for monarchs to the end, forging ahead no matter the obstacles and challenges. I feel such emptiness at the loss a beloved friend. Seeing a monarch will forever mean remembering Lincoln.”

Gail Morris, from Southwest Monarch Study, recalls Lincoln’s investment in her work in the Southwest: “He had an intense passion for protecting the overwintering forests in Mexico. Always the teacher, he was a fountain of compassion and care in our quest to learn more about monarchs in the southwestern United States as well. We will deeply miss his wisdom and insights. We were fortunate to have Lincoln's support and favor in our first paper published detailing the status of monarch butterflies in Arizona in his peer review with Dr. Robert Pyle in the Journal of the Lepidopterist Society. My most memorable moments were visiting Mexico with Lincoln several years ago. We sat at the table with him and his colleagues in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve to gain a new perspective of the variety of management complexities in the region. I'll always remember Lincoln patiently explaining the challenges monarchs face in the forest as we walked through the MBBR together, sharing his thoughts steeped in years of experience and wonder.”

Feeling incredibly fortunate to have had Lincoln as a colleague, mentor, and friend, Karen Oberhauser, from the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, shared these reflections about Lincoln’s career as a scientist and as a warm and wonderful human being:

  • First and foremost, Lincoln was passionately devoted to conservation.  This passion probably started very early in his life, when an aunt encouraged his interest in butterflies by introducing him to an entomologist who took him on collecting expeditions. While his research career focused on monarchs, he was also a tireless advocate for river conservation, and an expert on river ecology. And his work on monarchs extended across their habit; he worked to protect this habitat throughout the flyway, from the breeding grounds of the north, to the overwintering grounds in Mexico and California, and migratory habitat in between. 
  • Second, Lincoln constantly grew with his science. Although the majority of his research was on just one species – and I feel so grateful that this species was the monarch – he addressed questions that ranged from behavior, ecology and evolution to chemistry, physiology, climatology and geography. Even after his retirement from the University of Florida, he continued to learn sophisticated techniques, such as those that allowed assessment of Mexican overwintering habitat using satellite photos. He also continued to mentor new generations of scientists, including many of my own students. And until his death, he continued to raise and answer important questions about the monarch butterfly.  
  • Finally, Lincoln was an extremely nice person. He showed genuine interest in other people, whether young or old, professional scientists or “citizen scientists”. Lincoln recognized and celebrated the accomplishments of others, perhaps more than any other scientist I know. I know that my daughters, both of whom studied biology in college and read Lincoln’s papers in various classes, were always secretly pleased to remember this famous scientist as someone who sat down with them to play scrabble and balderdash, and attended their hockey games when he visited St. Paul.

Chip Taylor, of Monarch Watch, said “There is no doubt in my mind that monarchs would be in a much worse place today without Linc’s leadership. Still, my few words are not enough. Linc was a leader with a steadfast and worthy vision and there are not many like him.”

In a letter to Lincoln before his passing, Chip also expressed, “I have truly admired and respected you for your dedication and resolve to maintain the quality of the forests in Mexico and the migration itself. Without your efforts and those of your many students and colleagues, but especially yours, it is likely that the monarch population would be closer to the brink than it is at present. You should know that those of us in the monarch and conservation world truly appreciate all that you have done over the decades to lobby on behalf of monarchs. Yours has not been an easy task.”

To carry on Lincoln’s legacy and continue to strengthen monarch conservation research, the Monarch Butterfly Fund has established the Lincoln P. Brower Award. This award will support undergraduate and graduate students researching monarch butterflies and their habitats.


Lincoln’s distinguished career accomplishments:

Lincoln Pierson Brower (B.A. 1953, Princeton University, Ph.D. 1957, Yale University) was a Distinguished Service Professor of Zoology, Emeritus at the University of Florida. In 1997, he was appointed Research Professor of Biology at Sweet Briar College, living in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Nelson County, Virginia. His research interests included the overwintering and migration biology of the monarch butterfly, chemical defense, ecological chemistry, mimicry, scientific film making, and the conservation of endangered biological phenomena and ecosystems. He was a recipient of the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale University, the Medal for Zoology from the Linnean Society of London, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Animal Behavior Society, and the Henry Bates Award for the Biology and Conservation of Tropical Butterflies. In June, 2007, he received the Royal Entomological Society of London Marsh Award for “Lifetime contributions to Insect Conservation” and “Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Entomology”, and in November 2008, he was especially honored to receive the Mexican Federal Government’s award: Reconocimiento a la Conservacion de la Naturaleza. Professor Brower authored and coauthored more than 200 scientific papers, eight films, and edited two books. He served as Presidents of the Society for the Study of Evolution, the International Society of Chemical Ecology and the Lepidopterists’ Society. He collaborated with various groups to protect and restore overwintering forests of the monarch butterfly in Mexico. His conservation interests in the USA included modern agriculture’s severe impact on biodiversity in general. To facilitate his research and conservation efforts, Professor Brower in February 2003 formed a Geographic Information Systems team involving colleagues at The University of Mexico, NASA, Lynchburg College and Sweet Briar College in Virginia.