By Trevor Bloom
Beyond leading trips for Guides of Jackson Hole, I am fortunate to work as a research scientist for the Nature Conservancy in Wyoming. For our research, we are interested in the seasonal timing of events known as “phenology”. Phenology includes the blooming of wildflowers, the migration of animals, and when bears enter and exit hibernation. We are interested in how these events respond to climate and how they are shifting over time. Each season in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem brings new and exciting opportunities to witness ecological events and view extraordinary wildlife.
Spring– Spring is alive in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In spring our researchers go out into the field every other day to record the seasonal timing of events on plants and wildlife. We are particularly interested in topics such as when wildflowers begin to bloom, bears emerge from hibernation and what foods they are targeting, and spring migrations. We look for wildlife in person, and have also deployed game cameras throughout the national parks and forests.
Summer – In the summer we monitor the progression of the flowering season for over 100 species of wildflowers. In collaboration with the University of Wyoming/AMK Ranch we setup pollinator collections throughout the national park in order to better understand the bees and butterflies that call this place home. In the summer we lead Wildflower Watch – a citizen science project aimed to engage people of all ages in collecting scientific research. Last year we deputized 271 volunteers to collect 4700 scientific observations, which contribute to our research and inform management decisions in the region. Summer is buzzing!
Fall– The fall may be the most beautiful season in the GYE – as the aspens turn gold, and the elk rub the velvet from their fresh antlers in preparation to spar for mates –we continue to venture deep into the national parks to record the seasonal timing of events.
Winter – The winter is the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is dominated by one element – SNOW. In the winter we study the snow, its onset in the fall, its depth through the winter, and the date of snowmelt in the spring. We also deploy game cameras throughout the region to capture wildlife and their behavior in the winter. We do much of our research on skis. Winter is an incredible time to view wildlife in the region – the wolves rein supreme able to capture large prey species like elk that struggle in the deep snow, the bighorn sheep come down from the mountains into the Jackson Hole valley, and the moose congregate in great numbers where their food, the bitterbrush, is available. Not to mention, the skiing and snowboarding is awesome!