Emergence, Green-up and Migration: An Inquiry Project on Phenology

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The purpose of this project is to provide users an opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of Wyoming species and ecosystem relationships through using the WyoBio map application.

Use this site as a step by step inquiry project, to provoke critical thinking and questioning.  Resources are provided (as are some results) to enable users to delve as deeply as desired. Keep in mind that there is not a single right answer to questions about resource management, as individuals and organizations bring different perspectives to the solution of biodiversity problems.

Progress through the scientific process of inquiry and enjoy!  

Background Information:

Phenology, the study of seasonal changes such as fall colors, migrations, green-up in the spring or flowering timing, has a long history with being a naturalist.  Naturalist or just avid observers of our natural world have for centuries taken detailed field notes about species they are observing and what stage they are in their life-cycle.  These field notes and historical observations are being used as baseline data to compare to ecosystems and species today and see if there are any dramatic changes in phenological timing of significant events.

Why is this important?  Why do we care? Migration of birds or overland animals time their movements on the availability of certain foods along their path.  Think about the difference of your grass becoming green compared to the time in which you would expect the mountains to be snow free.  A mismatch in migration and food availability could be detrimental to the life expectancy or survival rates of these animals.

By observing local migrations in comparison to local food availability it could provide important data to scientist as well as to your own understanding of the complex interactions of plants, animals and climate.

This project is meant to be a stand alone inquiry project for phenology, but there is also a teaching unit that could be paired with this for further depth in understanding of this complex dynamic subject.  

Scientific Process:


By using Sandhill cranes as an example of phenological migration,

Have Sandhill Cranes been observed near where I live?

Based on the observations reported in WyoBio, when could I expect to see them?


Alternative: There are observations of Sandhill Cranes in the Laramie* area, indicating a spring arrival time and fall departure time. 

Null: Observations of Sandhill Cranes in the Laramie area do not indicate a spring and fall migration time.

*Note, Laramie is used here as an example but you are able to focus on your local area by slightly changing the hypothesis and focusing your collection to where you want.  Your answer will likely be different if you are in a different part of the state, which is interesting in and of itself. 

Design and Data Collection:

Follow the link below to WyoBio's map page where you can use the different layers and search processes to see and interact with how Sandhill Crane migrations maybe occurring in your local area.

How to find migration information on WyoBio:

1. The Sandhill crane observation layer can be found by clicking on the magnifying glass, selecting birds under the organism group; then choosing Sandhill crane under species selection. Make sure common name is selected underneath.

By clicking on each observation point and expanding the folder, you are able to find out more details, such as date of observation, who observed the species, and if it is a potential residential species or breeding ground.

2. Many more map layers are available to overlay. You may be especially interested in the land cover layer, to see what type of ecosytems the Sandhill cranes are most frequently observed in.

WyoBio Map

Analysis and Conclusions:

Follow the link below for potential results.  Remember you may have come up with something else.  This is just one result from the findings used in this analysis.



By using the link in the resource area to a lesson plan you have the option of spending more time understanding the role of phenology, go into the field to make observations, and upload data to WyoBio. 


National organizations focused on phenology studies:

Project BudBurst

National Phenology Network

Sandhill Crane information:

All About Birds: Sandhill Cranes

Phenology Lesson:

Being a Naturalist and understanding phenology