The RMBL Phenology Project

David Inouye, Principal Investigator (RMBL)
Rebecca Irwin (North Carolina State University)
Brian Inouye (Florida State University)
Nora Underwood (Florida State University)
Aimee Classen (University of Vermont)
Jane Ogilvie (RMBL)
billy barr (RMBL)

The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
(RMBL) Gothic, CO

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This project is based high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL), in Gothic, Colorado, USA. The project brings together long-term studies on flowering plants, pollinators, and climate (among other variables) to examine the importance of the timing of biological events (phenology) and the influence of climate on the phenology, diversity and abundance of plants and pollinators in high altitude meadows. The plant study, initiated by a group of graduate student researchers at RMBL in 1973 and continued by David Inouye, includes counts of all flowers in bloom in permanent plots every other day. Long-time Gothic resident, billy barr, has simultaneously been collecting climate and animal arrival data over the same timeframe. Since 2009, Becky Irwin has lead an effort to also sample the timing, abundance, and diversity of wild bees near the RMBL. This uniquely comprehensive and long study of wildflowers, climate, and animals is allowing us to understand better how individual wildflower species and the community are responding to climate change and how the interactions between plants and flower-feeding animals are being affected.

To collect the wildflower data, we count flowers of each plant species in the plots approximately every second day during the growing season. A set of 23 2 x 2 m plots have been followed since 1974 (excluding 1978 and 1990), and additional plots have been added through the years (two in 1985, three in 1998, two in 2004 and 4 in 2017). Data are now collected in a total of 30 plots and up to 135 plant species have been recorded blooming.

Funding for this project has come from the National Science Foundation. We are very happy to share the data with those wanting to use it for teaching or research. To request to use the data see the data page on this website.

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