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Sensing the Seasons


Scientists that keep track of nature’s clock are part of the field of study called phenology. From migration and breeding seasons to the changing color of leaves, there is much to learn about the timing of natural occurrences and how variations in these processes ripple through the ecosystem. Volunteers with our year-round Landmark citizen science program are helping collect data that will build a robust historical account of the region’s natural cycles, and crew members’ extended stays on the prairie give them the time to personally connect with the landscape and its intricacies.

October crew member Crystal Dolis writes:

“In such an expansive landscape, it isn’t surprising that most people imagine the large and charismatic features of the prairie. The bison, pronghorn, coyotes, raptors; the golden colors of fall and the wind rustling through seas of grass… But when you look closer, paying attention to more than what’s immediately in front of you, a whole world of details emerges from a view that can often look uniform and unchanging… The colors in the grasshoppers, the proliferation of crickets poised on a bush, the spiraling complexity of a spider’s funnel-like web, all flit into your consciousness briefly but poignantly. They too have a role to play, and never have I been more aware of the complexity of an ecosystem.” 

Photo by Morgan Cardiff