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NC CASC welcomes Donal O'Leary, a new NSF GRIP intern, for summer 2018

Starting this May, the NC CASC will begin working with Donal O'Leary, a second-year PhD student in the University of Maryland's Department of Geographical Sciences, on a project to study the effects of climate on the plant species of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. O'Leary has an interest in environmental science and geography and particularly, climate/ecosystem interactions on public lands. 

Phenology, the timing of life cycle events, is an important aspect of ecology because plants provide nourishment for a variety of species at different times of the year. Whereas a migratory herbivore might graze on an herbaceous flower as soon as it grows its first leaves, pollinators will feed this plant while it is in flower, and birds may wait until it has gone to seed to eat that plant’s fruits. As our climate continues to change, plant phenology is changing with it. It is known that different species have different responses to changing climate, but we have little information about the nature of these differences, and how they may impact the trophic webs that depends on these plants.

To better understand these processes, O'Leary, along with Geneva Chong and collaborators Trevor Bloom and Dr. Corinna Riginos from The Nature Conservancy, will combine field observations, temperature monitoring, and satellite imagery to improve our understanding of the different plant responses to climate throughout the GYE. Using this information, scientists and land managers will be able to anticipate changes in plant phenology and inform management of the plants and animals of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The NC CASC looks forward to collaborating with O'Leary this summer - stay tuned for more on the progress of this project. 

Yellowstone National Park

s: Donal O'Leary, pronghorn antelope in Yellowstone National Park (courtesy of NPS)