Last night I learned that someone who has been an inspiration to me for the last 15 years has died. He died yesterday. The odd thing about this is that it is someone I do not know personally, but know of his work. He was the Biologist and Monarch Conservationist Lincoln Brower. He was 86.
Just yesterday morning, while waiting for my son’s soccer game to start, I was reading a text book that I selected to read for a graduate seminar I am taking for my degree in Environmental Education. It is called Monarchs and Milkweed. And while you might think this is a lightweight text, it is definitely not and has far out reached any expectations I had of it. I feel this way even though I am not yet even to page 50! The passage I read described the earliest contributions Lincoln Brower made to the field of monarch conservation. These included facts that I had been unaware of until I read them yesterday morning, which unfortunately, as I found out last evening, was the very day he died.
I know of Brower from his decades of his work dedicated to the Monarch Butterfly. It is virtually impossible to read anything about this butterfly without reading his name. I know I first read of him on the website Journey North when I started raising monarch butterflies back in 2002. I felt a comfortable familiarity when I read his pieces on conservation of the monarch. I felt awe and inspiration when I saw him describe through videotape his trips to the pine forests of the mountains in Central Mexico where they overwinter. I now feel sadness that this scientist who dedicated his life of study to a butterfly species we both loved, has died.
Just yesterday morning I was entranced as I read about how a young Lincoln Brower studied the evolution of Swallowtail butterflies but became “obsessed” with mimicry and chemical storage of butterflies from toxic plants. This obsession very obviously moved him into his work with studying the monarch and its solely sustaining plant, milkweed. He, along with other scientists, worked on the chemistry and biology of how these two species co-evolved. These ventures all took place in the early 1960’s. This field is now called chemical ecology and was solidified in a collaborative, excited, and pioneering fashion. All of it led to what we know about monarchs and milkweed today.
Thank you Dr. Lincoln Brower.
Early yesterday morning, I was captivated by Lincoln Brower’s early work that was unknown to me before those moments.
Then, late yesterday evening, I was crushed.
I am still processing the news of his death, probably like many others in the fields of biology, conservation, and lepidopterology. He was 86; I get it. As humans, we don’t live forever. Over six decades, Lincoln Brower contributed so much to the study of monarchs and their conservation. Now, I just hope we can complete his legacy by helping the species he loved so much to survive.