About Us

Joel Moreno Rojas on Cerro Pelon. Photo by Ben Drake.

Joel Moreno Rojas-Board Member and Project Supervisor. Joel is the fourth born in a family of ten in Macheros, Mexico, a rural community of 350 people at the base of Cerro Pelon. When Joel was an infant, his father and two of his uncles started working as forest rangers on Cerro Pelon. They were the only men in their community to have steady, long-term employment. Their families parlayed this advantage into more opportunities for their children, several of whom became the village’s first college graduates.

When Joel was growing up, Macheros did not have running water or electricity, much less any infrastructure to allow locals to benefit from butterfly tourism. In 2000, Joel migrated to the United States, where he learned how to speak English and run a business. He returned to Mexico in 2010 and started working as a butterfly tour guide. After he met Ellen Sharp, they opened a B&B and butterfly tour service together. This business has benefited the local economy directly by employing a dozen workers, as well as indirectly by increasing the volume of visitors at Cerro Pelón. Joel and Ellen founded Butterflies and Their People to expand their efforts to promote economic development in the economically marginalized communities that live alongside the butterflies. Joel supervises the arborists and their daily activities, purchases supplies, and facilitates connections between this program and other professionals working in the Biosphere Reserve.

Dr. Ellen Sharp giving a monarch presentation at the University of Iowa.

Dr. Ellen Sharp-Board Member and Program Administrator. Ellen has a BA from Brown University and a PhD in anthropology from UCLA. In between these degrees, she worked in non-profits dedicated to immigrant services in New York City. Her dissertation research investigated self-help social movements in rural Guatemala and was funded by the Inter-American Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. She has received multiple awards for her writing and as well as UCLA’s Chancellor’s Prize and the Charles and Sue Young Award for public service. She turned her attention to the plight of monarch butterflies after first visiting the roost at Cerro Pelón in 2011, when she met Joel Moreno Rojas. She now lives full time in his hometown of Macheros at the entry of Cerro Pelón, where they run JM Butterfly B&B together. Ellen administers project funds and payroll, provides financial accounting, and compiles collected data into quarterly reports that will be made available to interested researchers and the general public via this website. You can read more about her at ellenjsharp.com.

Citizen Scientist Darlene Burgess on Cerro Pelon.

Darlene Burgess-Honorary Board Member. Darlene manages Pelee Paradise Sanctuary, a five acre farm with pastures, horses and plentiful Asclepias Syriaca and Incarnata. Permitted by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources to collect and handle wildlife, she rescues, rears, tags and releases monarchs at the Monarch Hale on her property, the site of Monarch Waystation 10275. She lives near Point Pelee National Park, Canada’s most southern mainland point where migrating monarchs gather before crossing Lake Erie on their journey south to Mexico. Darlene shares her monarch expertise at Point Pelee National Park by monitoring the area for migrating monarch activity and providing caterpillars for their Visitor Centre display. She also volunteers annually to create the Monarch Trail, a habitat restoration project coordinated by the park along with the Municipality of Leamington. Additionally, Darlene has volunteered for Friends of Point Pelee at Point Pelee National Park, Wings Rehab Center, Kittenaide, Voices of Youth Committee in Kingsville and is a past member on the Education Committee and Board of Directors for The Windchill Legacy.

Presently Darlene is an Educational Assistant at a Preschool Daycare Center, where she coordinates monarch releases for the students. Her passion for monarchs began as a girl in northern Ontario, and grew when she was living in Hawaii, where she encountered monarchs nectaring on Crown Flowers (Giant Milkweed-Calotropis Gigantea) as well as white monarchs. Upon returning to Canada, she deepened her commitment to protecting the monarch migration. She lives with her husband, who assists her with her monarch-rearing projects, and is the mother of two and grandmother of four.