Migration Database and Viewer

Elk migrating

Project Overview

Wyoming is fortunate to have vast tracts of largely undisturbed landscapes which are essential to maintaining long-distance ungulate migrations. Great strides in understanding ungulate migrations, especially in Wyoming, have been made over the past 15 years. Studies where ungulates have been captured and fitted with GPS collars have resulted in the collection of millions of animal locations. This work has been conducted by state and federal agencies, university researchers, environmental consulting firms, and NGOs. Original studies have been funded by a variety of sources and were designed to address a wide array of basic and applied questions. Because of these efforts, Wyoming now has a wealth of such data, but it is hard to archive, visualize, and use. This problem often prohibits the best data from being used to better manage Wyoming's wildlife. This project is making detailed movement data accessible to a wide variety of stakeholders interested in working to conserve Wyoming’s ungulate migrations.

We have partnered with the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center to develop a secure GPS movement database for Wyoming. We have identified over 40 separate GPS studies and have obtained, reviewed, and standardized many of them to make data consistent and comparable. We have built into the online viewer a suite of analytical tools to work alongside archived movement data. These tools will allow individuals to access and explore GPS movement data whether they are managers, biologists, or curious members of the general public. We have designed the database and viewer to be the standard archive for ungulate movement data in Wyoming and a durable resource for the state and region.

By working with researchers who have chosen to share their data, this project makes it possible for users to view and animate ungulate movement data. Nevertheless, the raw location data can only be obtained by contacting the original data owner. This approach - of allowing users to view and make simple summaries of existing ungulate movement data while protecting the raw location data - is a key component of this effort. This allows us to share ungulate movement data with a broad range of users, while protecting the integrity of the datasets and the proprietary study or project needs of the many researchers that have collected and own the data.

Bill Rudd is leading our efforts on this project and is the primary liaison with researchers and partners. Shannon Albeke has led the overall design of the database and the online viewer, with programming expertise provided by Phil Polzer at the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center.

project funders

This project has been made possible through a wide variety of funding partners, including: the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Bureau of Land Management, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the US Geological Survey, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. This project also relies on the cooperation of the many researchers and managers across Wyoming and the region who have collected and shared ungulate movement data. Their efforts and cooperation have greatly benefited this project.

Elk Migration map

project timeline

This project is scheduled for completion in 2016. To date, approximately 35 datasets have been cleaned, standardized, and entered into the database. In addition, we have designed and built the online viewer, which includes a number of tools to explore Wyoming’s ungulate migrations. We welcome your exploration of the Database and Viewer, which we have released in a beta version in order to gather feedback. We ask for your patience as we continue to develop tools and enhance the usability and functionality of the viewer. The viewer will be in flux over the summer and fall of 2016, and then you will see a new version that has new navigation features and will be easier to use. Comments are welcome and encouraged at the contacts provided.