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ECOLOGY OF UNIQUE ENVIRONMENTS-GREATER YELLOWSTONE ECOSYSTEM

Wildlife Experience in Yellowstone National Park, including the Wolf Recovery Project

Watch wolf pack take on a small bison herd

SSC 493

Tim DePriest and Joe Allen, Instructors

SSC 493      3 Credit hours         Approximate Dates: August 1-10, 2016

Department 716-645-2245

                                

E-mail: ttdeprie@buffalo.edu

Course Description

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a window into the primeval state of the American West. Yellowstone National Park will serve as the classroom for exploring the natural system and learning through structured field experiences, facilitated by a team of instructors with extensive experience in Yellowstone. Students will gain an understanding of the concepts of trophic dynamics, predator-prey interactions, ecological succession, and ecosystem management through field studies supported by readings of primary literature, lectures from Park biologists, and daily writing assignments. Opportunities for learning about the unique human and geologic history of the landscape, as well as advancing skills in wilderness travel will also be made available during informal sessions. It is expected that students who enroll in this course have a high degree of motivation to be self directed learners and be mentally and physically prepared for the challenges of living and learning in a rugged, wilderness setting.

 Goals of This Outdoor Education Course

Students will gain a first-hand understanding of the concepts of trophic dynamics, predator-prey interactions, ecological succession, and ecosystem management through field studies supported by readings of primary literature, lectures from Park biologists, and daily writing assignments. The objective is for the student to hone their skills in observation and inference through guided inquiry into the many types of natural phenomenon that will be encountered on a daily basis. Opportunities for learning about the unique human and geologic history of the landscape, as well as advancing skills in wilderness travel will also be made available during informal sessions. It is expected that students who enroll in this course have a high degree of motivation to be self directed learners and be mentally and physically prepared for the challenges of living and learning in a rugged, wilderness setting.

                    

                               Yellowstone is one of the most diverse ecological areas in North America. The park and the surrounding lands deserve rigorous protection.    

Topics Covered

-ecosystem management with respect to apex predator introduction and their effects on the ecosystem

-outdoor safety-basic outdoor safety as it relates to high altitude, very rugged terrain and weather and camping in bear country etiquette, campground activities/behavior  

-Wolf Recovery Project-students will be observing wolves with park biologists usually starting at 5 AM daily

-natural history of Yellowstone National Park will be explored from a natural, geologic, cultural and historical perspective; bird and mammal identification, alpine ecology and vegetation will be studied

 -wilderness manners/outdoor ethics- exploring the dominant paradigms and alternative paradigms of society, respect for natural systems, living the environmental lifestyle, human responsibilities to the environment

 -Piscean capture activities employing primitive, lightweight equipment involving difficult operational techniques and using artificially prepared enticements-a special Yellowstone National Park and/or Wyoming Non-resident license to participate in this artistic activity is required

           

         Foggy, cold 5:30 AM wolf den watch-J. Hysert Photo                                                              Bear Watch on killed bison-J. Hysert Photo

Outdoor Component

-area to be visited: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming-3,472 square miles (see Yellowstone Fact Sheet)

-exploration and examination of various ecotones, biomes and recovery areas within the park

-car camping in Slough Creek Campground in northeastern Yellowstone National Park known as the Serengeti of North America; we'll be camping and hiking in bear country; there are outhouses with no water-no electricity; water available at a hand pump

                                                

                         View of Slough Creek Campground, Yellowstone National Park

-wildlife observation including wolf den observations beginning at 5 AM and during day hikes

Download NPS bird checklist   

Download NPS mammal checklist   

Download mammal checklist-by McEneaney

-outdoor living with lots of free time to explore the park on your own-be liberated by the wild

                                           

 There is a heaven and it is fly fishing on the Lamar River-R. Gerhart Photo       

Costs

-in addition to the student cost of tuition for a 3 hour course, there is a student fee of $800-1000, fee will cover the costs for food, transportation, campground fees, entry fees, equipment & supplies

-student will provide own outdoor equipment, food & transportation from Buffalo to YNP and return is the responsibility of the student(s), carpooling is highly encouraged

 

Assignments

Field Journal: Students will utilize the “Grinnell Method” of recording daily field observations of wildlife and ecology in an organized field journal. The Grinnel method will be introduced in the second class session and reinforced during the field session.

Overview Paper: Prior to the trip, each student will be required to complete a paper that will be based on the required reading assignment. Options will include either a synthesis of results from different pieces of research literature or a critical response to the book.  

Research Paper: Each student will be expected to research and summarize the current literature of a specific topic of Yellowstone ecology. The topic for the paper will be chosen while in YNP and be approved by the instructor. The assignment will be due two weeks after the trip concludes.

Both papers will be held to the UB standards of academic integrity with all sources of information property cited in the APA or MLA format.  Each paper is expected to be at least five pages (1.5 line spacing) in length and the research paper should have at least five sources of information from peer reviewed literature. For information on UB’s academic integrity policy and resources on proper citation go to: http://academicintegrity.buffalo.edu/resources/index.php

 

 Student Evaluations

 

Student achievement and grading for this course will be based on evaluation of daily writing assignments, and the two papers which will result in a letter grade. Writing assessment will be based on content, mechanics, grammar, citation, and style. Overall Student effort and participation during the course will be taken into account in assigning either a plus or minus to the letter grade achieved.

Learning Objective

Assessment method

Understanding of ecological principles applied to history and management of Yellowstone NP

Overview Paper

Daily Field Journal

Development of field observation and note taking skills 

Daily Field Journal

Improved ability to engage in process of scientific  inquiry prompted by experience

Research paper

 

Required Reading

Scientific research literature:   A reading list and hard or electronic copies of approximately 15 journal articles of primary literature will distributed at the course introduction meeting and will be required reading before the course  begins.

 

Films to be view prior to the trip:

 

Valley of the Wolves-click this link to watch the entire program

and

Lords of Nature: Life in a Land of Great Predators-watch trailers here

Required Text:    Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone by Douglas W. Smith and Gary Ferguson

Field Guides

Field Guides may be shared between students (you don't have to buy them all but you must use them); of course, you do not have to buy the same guides I am recommending and you may want to bring other guides depending on your interests, i.e. insects, fungi, etc.

Sibley’s Field Guide to Western Birds

Peterson’s Field Guide to Mammals

Peterson's Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Wildflowers    or

Handbook of Rocky Mountain Plants by Ruth Nelson (The authority!)

Roadside Geology of Yellowstone National Country by William Fritz

                  

 

List of Equipment for Trip-The following list is in no way totally complete for individuals with experience in car camping

Tent- this item may be shared by a tent mate but it should be lightweight and waterproof AND OF VERY GOOD QUALITY

Sleeping bag & pad- if your sleeping bag has the Little Mermaid on it, don’t bring it; sleeping bag should be rated at approximately 20o F and dependable and stuffable and of mummy type

Cooler, Lightweight stove & cooking pots

Dr. Bonners’ Peppermint soap- this is what you’ll use to clean everything; it’s universally biodegradable and virtually benign in the environment -we don't bathe in the streams

Toilet tissue- obvious but put it in a zip lock bag to keep it dry

Hiking boots- you MUST insure that these are broken in and waterproofed before you come on this trip

Pocket knife or multi-tool- Swiss Army knives are best but personal preference is allowed

Camera- obvious

BINOCULARS-REQUIRED for bird and mammal study-several high-power spotting scopes will be rented for our group

Sunglasses/sunscreen- high altitudes are hard on eyes/ high altitudes are hard on skin

Bug Repellent- mosquitos' rule-"deet” repellents work best

Toilet items- generally a toothbrush, washcloth, small towel is all you really need

Journal- required for the course; don’t forget pencils

Water jug- 1 quart-plastic

Personal first aid kit- your own supply of band aids, moleskin etc

Compass or gps- obvious

Small day pack- since we will be setting up base camp and doing day hikes, bring a small pack to pack lunch and incidentals

Clothing- see list-keep them light weight and to a functional minimum-cotton items are less desirable since they retain water and dry slowly-we will be car camping not backpacking so weight/compressibility is not an issue 

Headlamp/flashlight/extra batteries-obvious

Money-so you don't have to call home

Optional Items

fishing gear-ultra-lightweight spinning outfit-2-4 lb test/ultra-lightweight fly rod-2 or 4 weight/waders - you may have never caught and consumed a "wild" trout before.  Yellowstone National Park license is required and may be purchased locally in the park and we may have an out-of-park fishing excursion into Montana/Wyoming's great trout waters

Wyoming non-resident/tourist fishing license is required to fish outside the park

Montana non-resident/tourist fishing license is required to fish outside the park

Yellowstone National Park fishing permit is required to fish inside the park

musical instrument-guitar, mandolin, harmonica, fiddle, banjo, dulcimer, singing voice

Stuff you don’t need to bring

No alcohol, tobacco, dope, drugs, guns, spears, brass knuckles, Mace, fireworks on trip-period

IMPORTANT

Bear Pepper Spray will be provided and each tent WILL have bear spray and each hiking party WILL carry at least 1 can of bear spray on every excursion

 

                    

                                                Ashleigh with the big lens                                                           Danielle glassing for silvertips

Recommended Clothing List

This is a recommended list; it is a very short one.  You may wish to modify this for your own preferences since we are car camping.  Remember:  keep it functional and light.  We are not making a fashion statement here and IT IS COLD IN YELLOWSTONE IN SUMMER TOO!

                Shorts-2 pairs                                                      bandana

                Socks-3 pairs                                                       hats-1 billed, 1 stocking

                Long underwear-polypropylene                         sandals/tennies

                Rain jacket/pants                                               underwear or not

                Fleece jacket-doubles as pillow                          T shirts, fleece pants, outdoor tights

Explanation              

Shorts/long pants-comfortable and unrestrictive to camp/hike in

Rainwear- this is essential gear; it keeps you dry and warm,doubles as wind protection- if you can afford Gore-Tex, it makes a difference; gear should include jacket and pants; avoid ponchos-they are usually cheap and ineffective

Hats- a billed cap of some variety and a stocking cap are necessary

Socks- appropriate socks will make a tremendous difference in your foot enjoyment level-polypropylene socks are best since they wick away moisture from your feet- I would bring 3 pairs               

Polypropylene long underwear- this item is an insulation item and may be worn externally too-avoid cotton because it retains  moisture for long periods of time; these double as outdoor tights, added insulation under rain wear and in your sleeping bag

Sandals/tennies/water shoes-water crossings are common in Yellowstone, water sandals are good

Fleece/down jacket- it can be cool and windy at 10,000ft

Handkerchief- good for do-rags, the "biker look," sweat, snot, spills, washrag and potholder

                                                                                                                               

Important Dates

*                Course Registration                      By the end of Spring Semester, 2016

*                Informational Meeting                  April 12, 2016    202 Clemens

 

Tentative Itinerary at a Glance

Approximate Dates:                                                        THE TRIP

July 31     Arrive Slough Creek Campground, northeast part of Yellowstone National Park; camp set up, familiarize with surroundings

August 1-August 10   participate in daily wildlife observations including wolves, bear, bison, elk, eagles, hawks, falcons, and waterfowl,  data collection, habitat studies, wildlife observation and anything else the professor/researchers/park personnel deem adventurous.  

August 11       Departure                                                                           

                                                  Photo by Ashleigh Baker

                                                                                                                             Outhouse Productions@  

 


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