In January 2013, in conjunction with the Yellowstone Association Institute, twelve students participated in eight days of intensive Yellowstone fieldwork. Students spent the mornings in the field, usually in Lamar Valley, where they observed bison, elk, moose and wolves. Afternoons featured private lecture-discussions with speakers representing a critical range of viewpoints on a set of issues. Students also heard from heads of the NPS bison and wolf management plans, and spoke with local ranchers and leading environmental activists.
Students arrived at the Bozeman, Mont., airport on various flights throughout the morning, where they mere met by Professor Thorp. The Yellowstone Association arranged for us to have a meeting space where we gathered and began to talk about the work ahead of us. Brad Bulin, our guide, arrived with a YAI bus and we left the airport at 2:30 p.m., stopping along the way in Paradise Valley for a talk about the threat of development in the valley. We arrived at our cabins at 5 p.m. Orientation, dinner.
6:30 a.m. breakfast, 7:30 a.m. departure. Entering Yellowstone National Park (stop for photo at the Roosevelt Arch). Bison herd near Blacktail. Wolf watching in Lamar. Afternoon: meeting and lecture with Wade Vagias, NPS expert on “winter use issues,” including snowmobiles in the Park.
7 a.m. departure. Direct to Lamar Valley. We met Rick McIntyre (YNP Wolf Project), who gave us an impromptu wolf lecture. Afternoon meeting and lecture with Michael Mease of the Buffalo Field Campaign.
7:30 a.m. departure. Direct to Lamar. Encountered moose near Ice Box Canyon. Soda Butte, lecture on trophic cascade and indirect effects of predators leading to healthier vegetation in the Park. Snow-shoe hike to wolf restoration pen.
7 a.m. departure. Visited with ranchers and their families in Paradise Valley. Discussion of “ranching with brucellosis” at the Kinkie Ranch. Discussion of “wolf politics” with Bruce Malcom in his outbuilding. Encountered Big Horn Sheep herd. Afternoon meeting and lecture with Scott Christensen, from Greater Yellowstone Coalition, on finding common ground between environmentalism and ranching culture.
Slept late! Underway at 10:30 a.m. Shopping for gifts at Mammoth Hotel and Yellowstone Association gift shops. Afternoon: Boardwalk hike at Mammoth Hot Springs; meeting and lecture with Dan Stahler, YNP Wolf Project, on wolf recovery and ecosystem impacts; meeting and lecture with Rick Wallen, NPS, “Bison Management in YNP.” Evening meeting and lecture with Marv Hoyt, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, “Phosphate Mining on Federal Lands in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.”
Optional morning ski-rental and cross country ski trip to Tower Falls. Afternoon: recap lecture and discussion. Evening: dinner party attended by many of our local friends.
10 a.m. bus departure for Bozeman airport.