At The Nature Conservancy, scientific research is critical to solve complex conservation challenges. Research translates into on-the-ground action that has lasting results for Wyoming’s most ecologically-important lands and waters. Our scientists are engaged in research in six main areas.
Big Game Migration
Mule deer are as much a part of the Wyoming landscape as sagebrush, but we are only recently beginning to understand their epic migrations. To broaden our understand, we are using GPS collars to document mule deer and elk migrations all along the Eastern Greater Yellowstone area, from Lander to Cody, and identifying priority conservation projects. We are also studying migrations of other increasingly rare wildlife (e.g. eagles, burrowing owls, ferruginous hawks, elk, pronghorn). This information helps us target conservation efforts for the greatest benefit to wildlife.
Roads and Wildlife
It's estimated that 6,000 mule deer are hit on Wyoming roads a year. Besides the fatalities, roads fragment the landscape, making it hard for animals to move freely. We are identifying the most problematic locations – e.g. places where many animals are hit by vehicles and/or have difficulty crossing roads – and working with partners to promote safer wildlife road crossings in those places. We are also testing whether low-cost measures such as reducing speed limits and covering roadside reflectors can reduce the problem.
Sage-grouse and Sagebrush
The sagebrush ecosystem is in trouble. And that isn't good news for sage-grouse and more than 300 other species that depend upon it. Sagebrush is declining rapidly, in both quantity and quality, due to a variety of human disturbances. The traditional approaches to sagebrush restoration have largely been unsuccessful and/or impractical to implement over large areas. So we're working with partners to test and develop new, cost-effective technologies to enhance the viability of sagebrush seeds, giving these native plants a boost in overcoming the barriers to reestablishing themselves in disturbed areas. We’re even engaging some teens in the work.
Eighty percent of Wyoming’s wildlife use wetlands and wet areas alongside rivers for some portion of their life cycle. But we don't have a full picture of the health and extent of these vital places. Along with partners, we are mapping and determining characteristics of Wyoming’s wetlands. Our studies provide a baseline understanding of the types of wetlands in Wyoming and their function in the larger ecosystem. We can use this scientific information to inform our restoration and conservation decisions.
We're seeing how climate change is bringing us shorter winters, earlier springs and hotter summers. It is changing when plants bloom and make fruits, when bears hibernate and when we plan our vacations. In the Greater Yellowstone region, we are observing these events today and comparing them with historic observations of those same events. By understanding how plants and animals are being affected by a warming climate, we can help them adapt and survive. By also engaging citizen scientists in data collection, we are increasing awareness of climate change and its impacts. We have also assessed the vulnerability of Wyoming wildlife to climate change.
As leading producer of oil and gas and a top state for wind potential, Wyoming faces the challenge of balancing energy development with the needs of wildlife. Our research focuses on understanding future energy impacts on wildlife such as sage-grouse, eagles, grassland birds and mule deer. We want to anticipate how policies, such as the sage-grouse core area strategy, may play a role in alleviating those impacts. We and our partners are identifying places where wind development would be harmful to wildlife and designing maps that could guide facilities towards places with less impact.We are also studying other species-specific issues such as the effects of noise on sage-grouse populations.
Meet Our Scientists
Read about our dedicated team of scientists here in Wyoming.
We've assembled a partial list of our research in peer-reviewed journals, Conservancy scientists ensure that our research is transparent and can be shared throughout the scientific community.
Thousands of vehicles collide with wildlife in Wyoming each year. Nature Conservancy scientists are investigating how to reduce this number especially along important migration routes. Learn more
Citizen scientists helped count butterflies at Red Canyon Ranch. Read more about what they found.
From robotic grouse to mule deer to frogs, Wyoming scientist Holly Copeland is blogging about the coolest conservation science. Read her posts.
Conservancy scientists in Wyoming share critical data about Wyoming's migratory birds. Learn more about bird migration in Wyoming
A new effort will illuminate how mule deer can also benefit from sage-grouse conservation efforts. See what Conservancy scientists are learning
Find links to peer-reviewed papers published by staff at The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming.