Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



Thesis Type

Honors College

First Advisor

Alison Brody

Second Advisor

Laura May-Collado

Third Advisor

Jeanne Harris


Abiotic stress, drought, wildflower abundance, remote sensing, GIS, alpine


As global warming raises average temperatures, increases evaporation rates, and brings earlier snowmelt, drought has become more frequent in the state of Colorado and the intermountain region in general. Native plant species are expected to adapt to these changes faster than non-native ones. The common dandelion (T. officinale) is a non-native plant in the Gunnison Basin, but as drought conditions increase in frequency, how are the plant’s abundance levels rising or falling compared to Nuttall’s larkspur (D. nuttallianum)? This question was investigated by comparing years with varying degrees of drought using a suite of GIS tools and high-resolution drone imagery. The year 2019 was just above average in precipitation levels, while 2020 was well below average. In 2021, an early snowmelt preceded another summer of significant drought. Dandelion abundance decreased in 2020 from 2019 abundance, while the Nuttall’s larkspur abundance remained constant. However, the larkspurs experienced a large decline in 2021 and dandelions returned to the abundance level of 2019. The results of this study offer insights for the future about how droughts may impact the communities in which dandelions and larkspurs exist from the changes in abundance and spatial variance seen with these two flower species.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.