Skip to main contentSkip to main navigationSkip to footer content

The Yellowstone Project

The Yellowstone Project provides students with the opportunity to engage in policy-oriented fieldwork under the direct supervision of naturalists, ecologists and environmentalists who live and work in the greater Yellowstone area.

In partnership with the Yellowstone Association Institute, SXU has established a program that will have students spending most of each day in the field, learning to track and photograph wildlife and study the effects of wolf reintroduction and climate change on the natural environment and on the local economy. During the trip, students will meet local ranch families and environmental activists working to preserve the public lands of the Yellowstone ecosystem.

Earn Undergraduate Course Credit

  • Participate in a one week long interdisciplinary fieldwork
  • Conduct a student/faculty collaborative research project
  • Integrate the humanities and the sciences
  • Can earn 3-6 credit hours
    • PHIL 242: Fall Semester (3 Credit Hours)
    • Travel Study: Spring Semester (3 Credit Hours)

Spring Break 2020

In March, the Greater Yellowstone Area may still be in the last weeks of winter. Sometimes the snow is deep, especially in the higher altitudes within the park boundary. This drives the Bison and elk down to the lower areas in search of grasses. Other years, and more frequently now, early March may be sunny and relatively warm. Be prepared for snow-shoes or hiking boots. The migrating bison and elk are followed by the wolves as the drama of predation is played out in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley.

Plan now to work in this remarkable setting!

  • You will be guided by leading naturalists and environmentalists who live and work in the Yellowstone area and be accompanied by three SXU faculty members.
  • Additionally, you will meet with local ranch families to hear their views about migrating bison and predatory wolves.
  • Travel will take place during the week of spring break (March 9-15, 2020). Participants must have taken PHIL 242 in fall semester of 2019 and will be selected based on the final project submitted for this class.
  • Students are encouraged to develop individual research projects in either the biological sciences (with David Elmendorf, Ph.D.) or political philosophy (with Thomas Thorp, Ph.D.).

What You Need to Know

High Activity Level: Some moderate to strenuous hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing daily. Students need to be physically fit.

Housing and Meals: Students will be housed in dormitory style rooms in a large modern cabin. Students will prepare group meals, reflecting the principles of sustainable agriculture.

Selective Admission: Spaces are limited, only 12 students can participate. Every student who plans to apply to the spring break 2020 travel-study course must have completed PHIL 242 in the Fall semester of 2019. Participants in the spring break travel-study course will be selected from those who complete the fall course based on their final project submission. If you have any further questions or concerns, contact Dr. Thorp: thorpFREESXU.

Program Travel Dates:
Spring break 2020 (March 9-15)

Application Deadline:
Until available spaces are filled.

Program Cost: With the support of a major NSF-HSI grant SXU offers you the opportunity to travel and conduct research in Yellowstone National Park. The only cost will be a lab fee of under $100.

Program Director:
Thomas Thorp, Ph.D.,
Professor of Philosophy
Email: yellowstoneFREESXU

Yellowstone Fun Facts

  • Watch what is happening at the Yellowstone live through the live cam.
  • Yellowstone was established on March 1, 1872 making it the world’s first national park.
  • Yellowstone National Park is 96% in Wyoming, 3% in Montana, and 1% in Idaho.
  • Yellowstone contain over 10,000 thermal feature and 300-500 active geysers.

Student Experiences

"This course and trip literally changed my life ... I'm now completing an internship at the Washington D.C. office of the Sierra Club."

--Chance Cutrano

On the lectures and speakers: "We heard from speakers on all sides, ranchers, environmentalists and some of the top research scientists working in the Park ... clearly no easy answers."

--Michael Catania

On encountering big horn sheep: "I was focusing my zoom in on one of the males in the herd, when he quickly turned to look back up the mountain. Another male was charging down the mountainside. It sprinted across the flat and just rammed the two other males. I see now why they call them rams!"

--Keith Murphy