Students engage with long-term environmental and phenology data sets (spanning over 40 years) collected at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, a high-elevation field station in Colorado, to explore the effects of climate change on the phenology of migrating and hibernating species. After becoming familiar with the geographic context, people involved with the data collection, and organisms studied through background readings and videos, students explore the raw data set in Excel or using an interactive data visualization tool. In small groups, students reproduce figures and regressions from Inouye et al. (2000) based on those data, then expand their analyses with data collected during the subsequent decade. By comparing analyses that encompass different time spans, students evaluate the original interpretations from Inouye et al. (2000), explain possible discrepancies, and generate predictions for future patterns. Finally, students build upon their initial analyses by developing and testing hypotheses about patterns found in other organisms in the data set, and combine these to discuss the ecological consequences of shifting plant and animal phenology in group presentations.

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Copyright © 2017 Ecological Society of America. This article first appeared in Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology 13: (2017), 1-20.

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