The Yellowstone Phenology Project

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is an 18-million acre, high-altitude wilderness in the Northern Rocky Mountains. It is home to two National Parks, a handful of National Forests, and various public and private lands managed for natural resource protection. It is the largest intact ecosystem in the lower 48; every animal species that Lewis and Clark would have seen two hundred years ago still thrives here. It is the home to landmark conservation projects that saved animals like the American Plains Bison and the Trumpeter Swan from the edge of extinction. It is ground zero for the famous and controversial gray wolf reintroduction. It is possibly the best laboratory in North America for witnessing and studying the interconnectedness of life. For realizing John Muir’s observation that “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." This project was created to showcase that fact.

Animals and plants interact in inexplicably complex networks, and together change in color and behavior and attitude and lifestyle to form the phenomena that we call seasons. Temperature, daylight, and precipitation may truly drive phenology, but what better indicator of spring than the arrival of migratory birds? What better indicator of fall than the smell of decomposing leaves in blaze-orange forests? The wilderness is a theater of constant change and excitement. Every plant and animal has a moment in the spotlight, and every subtle complexity in nature is revealed at some point throughout the year.

As a fellow inhabiant of this ecosystem, I am enamored by the progression of seasons. This project was a personal challenge to use photography as a tool to capture those classic ”spotlight” moments, and discover some of the more subtle events that go overlooked in the quick march of time. I hope these photographs transported you into Greater Yellowstone’s most iconic and inspiring scenes.

Thank you all for following this project since May. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks have really put on a show this year, and it was a pleasure being able to share some of the greatest moments in the natural world with you all through photography. I am off to the frozen north once again to spend a month with polar bears along the Hudson Bay. Stay tuned for stories and photos of the experience!