Graduate Students Explore Yellowstone

Graduate Students spent four weeks of April and May studying the botany, ornithology, and insects of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in an academic course titled Advanced Elements of Field Ecology. The purpose was to familiarize them with these topics of ecology, and also provide teaching ideas to aid in the design of their summer capstone courses.

Advanced Elements of Field Ecology culminated with our annual Wolf and Bear Trip to Yellowstone National Park. The cohort spent four days in Lamar and Hayden Valleys ‘geeking out’ on wildlife observation. Dr. Doug Wachob and Doug Connelly began the trip, with additional faculty Aaron Nydam and Liz Palchak arriving two days later. True to its name, we observed twelve bears – both Black and Grizzly – and spent two mornings with scopes on a Lamar wolf pack feeding on an elk carcass. The wolves had the carcass well hidden in the willows, but would often emerge into clear view. Additional highlights included excellent Golden Eagle viewing, Harlequin Ducks, and a Slough Creek hike on which we discovered massive elk antlers.

Coincidently, while we left the Kelly Campus to get our first spring glimpse of bears, reports came that there was bear activity in Ditch Creek and around Kelly Campus in our absence. Those still on campus tracked the bear and discovered additional sign, determining it to be a grizzly. Plaster casts were made from its prints, and we have continued to spot it in the weeks that have followed.

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