Quarterly Y ELLOWSTONE
Yellowstone Winter Travel Through the Ages Home on the Range: Yellowstoneâ€™s Ungulates Citizen Science Participants in Action
Dear Yellowstone Forever supporters, Winter is one of my favorite times to experience the wonderland that is Yellowstone National Park. For those who venture out this time of year, you’ll be treated to steaming geyser basins and incredible wildlife-watching opportunities set against a blanket of white snow. Though winter is a quiet season for visitation here in Yellowstone, it’s a busy season for Yellowstone Forever as we prepare for our year-end appeal. As 2018 draws to a close, I hope you will consider making an additional gift to Yellowstone, ensuring future generations will be able to experience the same beauty and magic that we do today. In addition to having a breakthrough year at the Yellowstone Forever Institute with our educational programming, we also provided $5.9 million to Yellowstone National Park, funding 53 priority projects. This included support for projects such as Native Fish Restoration, Youth Education, Wolf Research and Education, and the Wildlife and Visitor Safety Program. One of the signature projects we’re proud to support is the breathtaking Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Trails and Overlooks Rehabilitation. Over the past 70 years, the canyon’s trails and overlooks have been stressed by weather, erosion, and increased visitation. We have just been presented with a historic opportunity to capitalize on an unprecedented federal funding match to restore the final two overlooks in the system—the Brink of the Lower Falls and Red Rock Point. If Yellowstone Forever is able to raise $5.5 million, the project will receive a $4.5 million federal match. If you would like to know more about this opportunity and help us reach our goal, please contact Tara Castelucci at 406.396.6671. In October we also welcomed Cam Sholly as the new Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. Cam has a tremendous amount of experience working with public/private partnerships. Most recently he oversaw the completion of one of the largest of such partnerships in National Park Service history — the $380-million renovation of the Gateway Arch grounds and museum in St. Louis. I look forward to embarking on Yellowstone’s 150th Campaign with Cam and shining a light on the Canyon match opportunity, the new Yellowstone Youth Campus, and Native Fish Restoration. Thank you for your continued commitment to Yellowstone National Park and Yellowstone Forever. We are grateful for your support.
Heather White President & CEO Yellowstone Forever
COVER River otters move rapidly on snow and ice by alternating hops and slides, and can reach speeds of 15 miles per hour. Their waterproof pelts protect them from the cold.
02 Yellowstone Winter Beauty Endures as Travel Technologies Change 08 Home on the Range: Understanding Yellowstone’s Ungulate Tapestry 12 Citizen Science Participants Find Pleasure in the (Seemingly) Small Stuff 15 yf family Brad Bulin 16 nps interview Jennifer Carpenter 17 naturalist notes Not Just Another Red-tail 18 flora & fauna Lynx | Lodgepole Pine 19 experience Snowshoeing 20 spotlight Biennial Scientific Conference
images / pages
Megan Boyle Wendie Carr Chelsea DeWeese Joshua Theurer Jenny Golding Barbara Lee Ruffin Prevost Christine Gianas Weinheimer
Linda Carney Matt Ludin Leslie Quinn YNP Archives Walt Stuart Maria Bisso Lauren Beltramo Karen Withrow NPS
cover; 10 ii, 12, 14, 18, 21, back 2 4, 5 4-7 5, 8, 14, 20 14 19 16, 17
publication staff Lauren Beltramo Maria Bisso Megan Boyle Wendie Carr Paula Degen
Executive Team & Board Members EXECUTIVE TEAM
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
Heather White President & CEO
Chief Development Officer Chief Marketing Officer Chief of Staff
Chief Financial Officer
Vice President of Operations General Counsel
Senior Director of Campaign & Special Projects
Director of Human Resources
Vice President of Retail Senior Director of Park Projects
Senior Director of Education
Vice President of Development
Heather White PRESIDENT & CEO
Kevin Butt John Costello Annie Graham Carolyn Heppel Charles Kaufmann III Joe Marushack Susan Roeder Jacqueline Rooney Bob Rowe Doug Spencer Elizabeth Webb
Snowcoaches and their drivers from Yellowstone National Park Lodges.
Yellowstone’s Winter Beauty Endures as Travel Technologies Change By Ruffin Prevost
YQ | 3
Getting around Yellowstone National Park in the winter has never been easy. Over the past century, visitors and workers have relied on an array of evolving and sometimes dubious technologies, ranging from plane fuselages mounted on skis to a tractor outfitted with two pontoon-sized augers. Even with modern snowcoaches and snowmobiles, winter travel in Yellowstone still requires what some park veterans describe as “an enhanced sense of adventure.” But the extra effort required to navigate Yellowstone’s snowy landscape is rewarded with a park blanketed in dazzling white, offering a quieter pace, peaceful solitude, and splendid isolation. For longtime area resident Rick Hoeninghausen, an overnight winter trip to Old Faithful brings opportunities that summer can’t offer. Day visitors are clearing out by mid-afternoon, and only a few hundred people are around the entire Upper Geyser Basin by dark. “You can go out on the boardwalk and take in a geyser eruption by moonlight. It’s a stunning show,” said Hoeninghausen, vice president of marketing in Yellowstone for Xanterra Travel Collection, the park’s lodging concessioner. The dark skies over the park mean “the stars put on an amazing show on a moonless night,” he said. “Sometimes you can see your starlight shadow on the snow, which I think is just incredible.” Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing continue to grow in popularity, he said, with trails to destinations like Lone Star Geyser offering a singular winter experience in the park. Hoeninghausen said winter travel in Yellowstone over the last quarter-century has moved away from adrenalinefueled snowmobile trips to more contemplative outings focused on learning about the park’s geology and ecology. Using low-pressure tires, instead of tracks or treads, has made snowcoaches quieter, more fuel-efficient, and comfortable, he said.
TOP President Theodore
Roosevelt, on the far left of the photo, on his way to Old Faithful in 1903 on a horse-drawn sleigh. BOTTOM Yellowstone National Park’s first oversnow motorized vehicle, the screw tractor, at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch.
Comfort was hardly a consideration for the park’s earliest regular winter travelers, said Yellowstone National Park Historian Alicia Murphy. U.S. Army soldiers used giant wooden slab-style skis to patrol for poachers. They employed a single long pole, mainly to stop themselves while sliding downhill. “I don’t know how anyone survived that,” Murphy said of the soldiers’ regular patrols between backcountry cabins spread across the park. “Those guys were really tough.” For decades, skis were the only way to move around the park in winter. In April 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Yellowstone, taking a special excursion by horse-drawn 4
FROM TOP Two Stuart snow planes arriving at the Upper Geyser Basin via the former Grand Loop Road, which today is the path connecting the developed part of Old Faithful Village with Morning Glory Pool.
A modern-day snowcoach– a van with oversized tires that are underinflated to keep the vehicle from sinking into the snow. A snowplane that operated in Yellowstone in the 1950s. The CallAir snow plane was built by the Call Aircraft Company– an Afton, Wyoming company that operated in the 1940s and 1950s.
YQ | 5
Snow planes were another novel winter vehicle. Walt Stuart, a West Yellowstone, Montana, mechanic, built three snow planes that were the first used in the park. Used elsewhere since the 1930s, snow planes were enclosed cockpits on skis, with a pusher propeller mounted at the rear. In 1949, Stuart’s three snow planes took a total of 35 people through the park on 19 trips.
sleigh to Old Faithful and Canyon, said Leslie Quinn, interpretive specialist for Xanterra. The first motorized winter vehicle in Yellowstone “was an oddball item called a screw tractor,” Quinn said. The vehicle was essentially a tractor mounted on two cylindrical tubes with raised spirals, which pulled it across the snow while “floating” over drifts. The vehicle shuttled between Roosevelt Lodge and Cooke City, Montana, in the mid-1920s, Quinn said.
“They were phenomenally, wonderfully dangerous things,” Quinn said. The unguarded propeller was at ground height, and the crafts were prone to tipping over during sharp turns.
Another odd vehicle used by park workers was the Weasel, a bit of military surplus left over from World War II. A tracked vehicle designed for snow warfare, the Weasel was like a small open-air tank without a gun. Quinn said the Weasel was instrumental in the rescue of the lone survivor of a May 1963 B-47 bomber crash near Shoshone Lake.
Snow planes were short-lived in the park, with snowcoaches arriving on the scene in 1955 and snowmobiles entering use in 1963. By the 1970s, snowmobiles were the dominant mode of winter travel in Yellowstone.
Snow plane in front of the Old Faithful Inn’s winter keeper’s cabin, with the Inn behind it. When visiting Yellowstone today, always remain at least 25 yards from wildlife and at least 100 yards from bears or wolves to protect yourself and the animals you come to watch.
Today the road from Mammoth to Cooke City is plowed, offering visitors in autos a chance to watch wolves and other wildlife meet the challenges of winter along the park’s northern range. The National Park Service continues to require the use of best-available technology for snowcoaches and snowmobiles to ensure cleaner air and quieter winter soundscapes, Historian Murphy said. While park officials would like to see an electric snowmobile developed, the practical implementation of that technology remains out of reach, she said. But such a vehicle could eventually help set a new standard for other parks, just as a group of Army regulars helped set a standard in 1894 when they caught a notorious poacher.
bison he had just killed. Howell bragged in front of a reporter as he was being jailed that his punishment would be limited only to expulsion from the park and forfeiting his gear. The subsequent publicity and outrage forced Congress to pass the Lacey Act, a sweeping law protecting wildlife on federal lands. Before then, weak rules and policies against poaching made it tough to go after offenders, Murphy said. “So that new law forever changed how we protect Yellowstone and any federal preserve,” she said, “all thanks to that winter activity by those tough soldiers on skis.” Ruffin Prevost is founding editor of Yellowstone Gate, an online publication offering community news and inside views about Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
Soldiers patrolling along Pelican Creek during a March snowstorm captured Edgar Howell, who was skinning several
YQ | 7
By Jenny Golding
Home on the Range:
Understanding Yellowstone’s Ungulate Tapestry on the grasslands for food—the bighorn sheep, the pronghorn, the mule deer, the elk. Is there home on the range for all these animals in Northern Yellowstone?” asks Chris Geremia, wildlife biologist with the National Park Service (NPS). “How do they negotiate this landscape of predators, and available habitat, and find a place to live?” A new multi-layered research project called Home on the Range aims to find out.
A few months from now, hints of green grass will emerge from the snow at lower elevations around Yellowstone. Those first shoots will blossom into a “green wave” that climbs the hills and valleys towards higher elevations as spring advances. Yellowstone’s dominant ungulate species—bison, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mule deer—having scraped by on the nutritional equivalent of a cereal box all winter, “surf” the wave, following green-up from their wintering grounds at lower elevations (often outside the park) to the verdant meadows and slopes of Yellowstone’s northern range.
Home on the Range coordinates data collected by park biologists and Yellowstone Forever citizen scientists to evaluate bison, elk, bighorn, mule deer, and pronghorn diets, nutrition, habitat use, migration patterns, birth rates, survival rates, and population growth rates. While similar studies have been done in Africa, this is the first comprehensive look at the abundant ungulate and carnivore community in Yellowstone.
It’s part of an annual cycle of movement that is as old as the land itself. Tens of thousands of animals migrate, some as far as 150 miles, pulsing in and out of Yellowstone with the seasons, weaving an ecosystem-scale tapestry of life, death, survival, and predation, with Yellowstone’s critical summer habitat at the center. Now, scientists are concerned that there may not be enough habitat to sustain them all.
There is a very intricate relationship between ungulates and grasslands—the number of animals and how they graze affects the amount and quality of grass for a host of other species. Geremia likens it to a lawn: If you fertilize, water, and cut a lawn, it grows thick and full. Bison, in the way they graze in large herds in a focused area, are basically cutting and fertilizing the “lawn.” The idea is to understand whether the grassland is more productive with the current amount of bison in the park, or if they are tipping the range towards overgrazing. The more productive a grassland, the more ungulates it can support, which in turn provides enough resources for a robust carnivore population. “We all know there’s a way to kill a lawn,” says Geremia. “Can you actually kill the lawn of the Lamar or change
Bison are roaming the park in historically high numbers—more than 4500 at last count and averaging nearly 5000 over the last five years. And they are changing the landscape. John Muir famously quoted: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” Yellowstone is no exception; scientists are beginning to wonder how bison are affecting the rest of the ungulate tapestry that depends on Yellowstone for survival. “A logical question is what effect bison are having on the grasslands, and indirectly on all of the other animals who rely 8
the plant composition so much that it’s no longer usable to animals? We’re trying to determine if that’s happening.” At approximately 30 study sites scattered from the Gardiner basin to the Mirror Plateau on the northern range, and from Horse Butte outside West Yellowstone to the Hayden Valley, researchers collect samples to analyze the nutrients and microbial populations in the soil. They also install small, temporary fences to track how much grass bison are eating and to see how fast grass grows back. Working alongside vegetation researchers, they monitor plant composition to see if the types of species are changing. Students on Yellowstone Forever programs get to actively participate in the research by conducting herd counts, locating collared animals, and even collecting scat samples. Their work provides the NPS with much-needed data. If the quality of the range is declining, or if the system is out of balance, it should be evident in the way bison and other ungulates behave— through changes in habitat use, migration patterns, survival rates, and reproductive rates. To understand these factors, researchers collect data on group composition, counting the number of young and adults throughout the year to track juvenile survival, one of the key indicators of degrading habitat. In addition, approximately 100 animals across the five ungulate species in the study are fitted with GPS collars to track how the animals move. Researchers locate a collared animal and collect fecal samples, which are used to analyze the composition and quality of the diet and to look at the movement and behavior of different species using the same range. If bison and mule deer are in the same area, are they competing for resources, or are they eating different plant species? Or, are bison in winter creating foraging routes through the snow that other species can follow? Scientists can also overlay ungulate movements with predator locations. Are these animals moving because of available food, or because of predators, or both? There’s more at stake than simply available food. If animals change their behavior too much because of declining habitat, ancient migration
routes could be lost. “Deer, pronghorn, elk, bison, and sheep use routes that seem to be learned and passed on through generations. They have effects on the entire ecosystem. You might not be able to recover a migration route once it’s lost,” says Geremia. A unique aspect of this project is that much of the research is being done by citizen scientists. Students on Yellowstone Forever programs get to actively participate in the research by conducting herd counts, locating collared animals, and even collecting scat samples. Their work provides the NPS with much-needed data. “We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of observations; it’s incredible,” says Geremia. “We’ve more than quadrupled the amount of work we can get done with NPS researchers alone.” In addition to a 3-year, $150,000 grant from Yellowstone Forever, more than 600 Yellowstone Forever participants have provided 335 volunteer research hours since the project’s inception this year. Not only do participants feel the satisfaction of giving back to the park, says Joshua Theurer, citizen science program manager for Yellowstone Forever, “they realize ungulates do a lot more than lie down in the grass chewing their cud. They really look at the animals from a different point of view.” Both Theurer and Geremia say that the study provides a deeper level of engagement, giving citizens the opportunity to talk about this idea of bison, grasslands, and sustainability and form their own opinions. They’ve particularly focused on engaging youth and high school participants, in hopes the students join the conversation about stewardship of these animals into the future. Each layer of data is another tool in teasing apart the threads of this complicated tapestry and forming a picture scientists can understand and use. “For 100 years we’ve argued over what’s the right way for ungulates to graze Yellowstone,” says Geremia. Home on the Range will help further our understanding of the ecosystem, and provide decision-makers with new information that will help them guide future management. Jenny Golding is a former director of education for Yellowstone Forever. She currently runs the website A Yellowstone Life, and writes from her home in Gardiner, Montana, on the border of Yellowstone National Park.
YQ | 9
LEFT Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.
WHAT DOES A GPS COLLAR DO?
GPS—or Global Positioning System— collars placed on Yellowstone animals provide important movement and location data for scientists. The GPS technology embedded in the collars records the specific location of an animal on a customized time schedule. This data is transmitted via a private satellite system called “Iridium” directly to researchers’ computers, providing them with daily or hourly movements, depending on the project. This enables researchers to “see” wildlife movement on the landscape in a highly efficient way, allowing the study of migration routes, locating an animal for population counts, and seeing how it interacts with other animals (or people).
E XPERIENCE | PRE SERVE
Wolves are highly social animals and live in packs, such as the Wapiti pack pictured here. These packs are very territorial and communicate with neighboring packs by scent-marking and howling.
YQ | 11
By Chelsea DeWeese
Citizen Science Participants Find Pleasure in the (Seemingly) Small Stuff
Volunteers Sharlene Sing and David Weaver read Daubenmire frames to record plant phenology at the Mammoth Hot Springs phenology site.
The buzz of grasshoppers fills the sagebrush-scented air atop an open hillside in Yellowstone National Park’s northern range when Dani Hatfield breaks her silence. “Wow. There’s some cool stuff in here,” she says, looking into a plastic container filled with insects suspended in cloudy liquid. “It keeps changing every time. That’s my favorite part.” The number of millipedes captured in this particular “pitfall”— a plastic container placed in the ground that bugs crawl into — is more than last month’s capture, she continues. Hatfield, a 19-year-old from nearby Gardiner, Montana, studies filmmaking and entomology at Montana State University in Bozeman and has volunteered with the National Park Service (NPS) since high school. This project isn’t necessarily tied to what she studies in school though, she says: “I just like bugs. So I volunteered.” Nearby, Hatfield’s teammate, Maureen Cairns, documents plants growing in plots adjacent to field equipment gathering temperatures, precipitation, wildlife sounds, and other data. Hatfield, Cairns, and their other teammate, Gabrielle Blanchette, were three of nearly a dozen volunteers gathering data for Yellowstone National Park that afternoon as part of the joint Yellowstone Center for Resources and Yellowstone Forever Citizen Science Initiative, a cooperative effort between Yellowstone Forever and Yellowstone National Park biologists. Citizen science allows volunteers to participate in scientific undertakings to further their appreciation of Yellowstone, and it also helps the park achieve more research than current funding and staffing may allow. Since its inception more than 10 years ago, citizen science has been a resounding success, and Yellowstone Forever is now working to create more opportunities and fold them into existing programs. The Yellowstone Phenology Project, described above, is the study of plant and animal life-cycle changes over time. Other citizen science projects include red-tailed hawk nest monitoring, invasive weeds mapping, and northern range ungulate research. Erik Oberg, a biologist with NPS and the lead on the phenology project, described the volunteer help to his project as “invaluable.” It’s the perfect hands-on opportunity for volunteers and a chance to recruit, train, and retain volunteer staff, he says. The volunteers run the gamut. Some, like Blanchette, who is an entomology graduate student at MSU Bozeman, use it for professional development. Some, like Cairns, see it as a way to get outside and away from the desk while continuing to learn about Yellowstone. Retired entomology professor Bob Stoltz lends his expertise identifying bugs captured in the pitfalls. And Jana Paus, of Bonn, Germany, finds it a way to make friends and stay occupied while she visits her boyfriend for the summer while he’s working in Yellowstone. All find fun in the camaraderie of collecting and sorting data. “I always thought I’d like to do volunteering,” says Paus, who recently earned her undergraduate degree in biology and is enrolling in a master’s program. The morning after collecting insects and plant data in the field, volunteers gather in a classroom at the Yellowstone Forever
YQ | 13
FROM TOP Chris Geremia of the National Park Service explains the questions driving the Home on the Range project to the Restoring Yellowstone field seminar participants in Lamar Valley.
Student from an Institute Field Seminar uses digiscoping technology to capture what she is seeing through a spotting scope on a smartphone. Joshua Theurer, Citizen Science program manager at Yellowstone Forever, with a student using telemetry in Lamar Valley to locate collared bison for the Home on the Range project. Pitfall trap filled with invertebrates. A volunteer holds a bison scat sample from the Home on the Range project, which will inform niche partitioning among the ungulate guild in Lamar Valley.
building in Gardiner, Montana, to carefully extract insects from the pitfall samples, examine them under a microscope, and sort them into vials filled with ethanol. These samples will be made available to permitted researchers, including graduate students, and will be stored in a repository at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center for future study. Some, like the carabid ground beetle, of primary interest in the insect portion of the
“Wow. There’s some cool stuff in here,” she says, looking into a plastic container filled with insects suspended in cloudy liquid. “It keeps changing every time. That’s my favorite part.” phenology study, will be sent to outside experts for further classification. Beetle species trends can be a key indicator of climate change, Oberg says. The study is being conducted in a way that data can be shared with the National Ecological Observatory Network, which is in the process of finalizing a field site in Yellowstone. Plant information will illustrate what plants are growing, flowering, and seeding at certain times of the year. In terms of what the data will be used for: “We are documenting what is happening in Yellowstone at this moment in time at different elevations,” Oberg says. This can be incorporated into future studies. Joshua Theurer, citizen science program manager at Yellowstone Forever, says visitors benefit greatly from participation in citizen science because it allows them to “peek behind the perceived veil of science” and have a more in-depth visitor experience. He says Yellowstone Forever is working to include more youth—from middle school to college-aged—in volunteer roles. “The hope is that these projects are not just a nice, isolated experience but will inspire continual engagement with projects in participants’ local areas,” he says. Yellowstone Forever is working on ways for students to remain involved remotely both before and after their visit. For volunteers Brian and Sydney Wallace of Bozeman, the benefits of volunteering are more visceral. Sydney says focusing on something so small, like a collection of insects, allows her to think about the park in an entirely different context, instead of focusing only on big things like bears, and wolves, and mountains. Plus, “It was a lot of fun!” For Bryan, it was reassuring to know somebody’s paying attention to Yellowstone’s smaller details, and he was happy to contribute. “It’s an investment of a day,” he says. “Who doesn’t have a day to invest?” For information on participating in the phenology project, please email Erik Oberg directly at email@example.com. For information on additional Yellowstone Forever citizen science projects, please visit yellowstone.org Chelsea DeWeese is a Yellowstone Forever instructor and writer based in her hometown of Gardiner, Montana, the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Y F FA M I LY
SENIOR NATURALIST people. When out with a group, I combine observing wildlife with communicating findings from the fascinating research happening right here in the park.”
For anyone looking to have an amazing experience learning, exploring, and wildlife-watching in Yellowstone, it would be ideal to embark on a journey with both a skilled instructor and a wildlife biologist. Some lucky Yellowstone Forever Institute participants get both combined in one person: Senior Naturalist Brad Bulin.
Brad’s love of Yellowstone and its animal inhabitants runs deep, so when he’s not leading a group, he’s taking his own wildlife-watching expeditions in the park. “Cougars are of particular interest to me because we still don’t know a lot about them. Everyone comes to see wolves, bears, and bison, but I like a challenge. I learn about cougars through tracking and filming them in my free time.”
Brad has been an educator for his entire adult life, teaching students from pre-K to college. In recent years, he has spent more time outdoors than in a classroom, working as a naturalist guide and instructor. He originally came to the Yellowstone Forever Institute as a seasonal instructor in 2004 to teach courses on wolves, and in June of 2018 he became its first senior naturalist. In addition to his new leadership and mentoring role, he leads numerous Yellowstone Forever programs year-round. “It’s a unique audience, and I’m fortunate that I get to share this amazing place with them. Most of our participants really value the park and are already conservation-minded, but I like to think we send them home with an even greater appreciation for wild places and wild things.” It’s no surprise that Brad’s calling as an educator evolved into a career as a naturalist. He is also a trained scientist, holding a master’s degree in wildlife biology. Many of the Institute programs he leads have wildlife themes, such as Watching Wildlife with a Scientist’s Eye and Interpreting Wildlife Signs. “Wildlife is my expertise, my interest, and my passion. My whole life has been focused on watching and learning about wildlife and sharing these experiences with other
Whether one’s interest is in wildlife or other Yellowstone topics, Brad believes that taking a course or tour is the ideal complement to time spent exploring the park independently. “In addition to enjoying a more in-depth Yellowstone experience, I often hear from program participants that it’s nice having someone who can help them make the most of their time in the park. Our instructors know the optimum times to arrive at different sites, where and when to view wildlife, and park highlights that are off-the-beaten path.” Plus, taking a program is simply fun, says Brad, who likes to blend humor with education. “We don’t have to be serious all the time.” He is excited about how his new role can contribute to the future growth of the Yellowstone Forever Institute. “The Institute provides consistently high-quality programs, but we strive to keep enhancing them and broadening our impact by engaging more diverse audiences and expanding youth programs. It’s our hope that participants become more engaged as stewards of Yellowstone, and that this also carries over to other parks and wild places.”
YQ | 15
NPS INTERVIE W
Chief, Yellowstone Center for Resources With a National Park Service lineage, Jennifer Carpenter has made a name for herself working in parks like Bandelier, Grand Teton, Lassen Volcanic, and Yellowstone. Here she talks about her role as chief of Yellowstone’s Center for Resources (YCR) and her connection to the park and its mission.
habitat, and determining how to or not to respond. With visitation up 50 percent since the year 2000 and with another significant jump between 2014 and 2017, we’re also focusing on visitor use. Increased visitation impacts the resources on the ground and affects the visitor experience. We have to determine how to protect park resources in perpetuity. Also, for people to be invested in protecting our parks, we need to provide a visitor experience that instills the sense of wonder that comes with experiencing an intact wilderness.
How did you come to work for the National Park Service?
It’s a combination of my family connection to the National Park Service and my belief in the park service’s conservation mission. My grandfather was a career National Park Service employee and deputy superintendent of Yellowstone in the mid ’60s. My dad grew up in Mesa Verde National Park and told stories of how amazing it was. My park service career began in 2004 when I had the opportunity to work at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, a park where my father worked as a seasonal employee in the 1950s. After working in several other parks, I came to Yellowstone in 2012.
How are Yellowstone Forever and YCR connected?
Yellowstone Forever is an integral partner for YCR. Without their support we simply couldn’t do many of the things we do to protect park resources. Yellowstone Forever provides financial support, and also in-kind support. They fund many projects, including the Wolf Project, Wildlife Health, and our Home on the Range project, which was co-developed by Yellowstone Forever and YCR’s bison management program. Yellowstone Forever also provides funding for a lot of science publications, both in terms of popular science like Yellowstone Science, which highlights work going on within YCR and the park, and technical science, like Vitals Signs and the Wolf Report, that offer information about data we collect.
What does your role as chief for YCR entail?
I provide overall leadership and guidance for the division. It’s one of the most complex and largest resources divisions in the entire National Park Service. We cover everything from A to Z in terms of natural and cultural resources, from archeology to wolves. It’s an honor to work with an amazing group of scientists and staff that are the heart of protecting Yellowstone and living the mission on a daily basis. It’s my job to support them so they can be on the cutting-edge in terms of research and management.
How does it feel to be the first female chief of YCR?
It’s an honor. There were four male division chiefs prior to me, so it’s a door opening in some respects. I hope it shows young people they can do anything.
What are some key issues for YCR at the moment?
Climate change is a big one since things are already changing. We’re monitoring issues like the invasion of exotic vegetation, changing wildlife habitat and ranges, and native fisheries 16
N AT U R A L I S T N OT E S
Not Just Another Red-tail By Joshua Theurer, Citizen Science Program Manager
“Ah, it’s just another red-tail,” the participant despondently proclaimed as she lowered her binoculars, “we have those back home.” And she’s right; just about anywhere in North America, red-tailed hawks are a common sight, often seen perched roadside or soaring thermals in search of quarry. Red-tailed hawks, Buteo jamaicensis, are counted among the group of diurnal soaring hawks known as “buteos.” This group, in general, presents traits that are common amongst the other raptors, including acute eyesight (4–8 times that of humans), sharp talons, and a hooked bill. But in contrast to other raptors, buteos are all wing. Their remarkably broad wings increase surface area and allow the animal to float almost effortlessly on rising currents of air. It is the combination of these and other traits that allow red-tails to occupy such a wide variety of habitat types and therefore range over most of North America. However, due to their hunting strategies, the deep snows and cold temperatures of Yellowstone present a problem. The solution is migration. Most of the Yellowstone population moves short distances, generally to lower elevations, seeking areas that harbor less snow and allow them easier access to prey.
The Yellowstone Raptor Initiative monitored this species from 2011–2015. The first couple years of the project revealed nothing surprising; the hawks were commonly found across the northern range of Yellowstone and presented very high nesting success rates (89 percent in 2012). However, during subsequent years, success plummeted (32 percent in 2014), and nobody knows why. So the Yellowstone Forever Citizen Science Initiative has taken on the responsibility of locating and monitoring red-tail nesting sites. Similar efforts are happening across the country, as the pervasiveness of red-tails suggests they are very good indicators of widespread environmental change—the proverbial canary in the coal mine. As winter’s snows begin to melt, watch the sky for these broad-winged buteos, but don’t dismiss them as “just
another red-tail.” Look closer for the distinct behavior of courting and nesting, such as dangling their legs in flight, or synchronous aerial maneuvers. These behaviors reveal the secret and fascinating life of this oh-so-common hawk.
YQ | 17
F L O R A & FAU N A
Lynx BY BARBARA LEE ART LAUREN BELTRAMO
Elegantly tufted ears, bobbed tail, ultra-thick coat, and huge, snowshoe-like feet— nearly salad-plate-size and hair-covered on both top and bottom, perfectly adapted for movement over deep snow. The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) is a superb hunter suited to cold northern forests populated by snowshoe hare, and the species is therefore considered particularly vulnerable to climate change and loss of habitat. Yellowstone lies at the southern end of the lynx’s current range, and the park counts this feline among its rarest animals.
BY BARBARA LEE ART LAUREN BELTRAMO
Not the tallest, not the grandest, but the most common tree in Yellowstone and vitally important to its health—the lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) reseeds burned areas and populates all but the park’s northern section. If you spot a so-called “doghair forest” of crowded, post-fire conifers, they’re most likely lodgepole pine. In winter, the tree’s lower branches shelter and feed birds and animals, including snowshoe hare— diet mainstay of the snow-loving predator extraordinaire, Canada lynx.
Plan Your Winter Adventure in Yellowstone Come learn and explore in Yellowstone’s winter playground! The Yellowstone Forever Institute offers in-depth Field Seminars that delve into the activities and topics that interest you, from wildlife watching to birding, photography, and more! SUPPORTERS RECEIVE $15 OFF TUITION. SIGN UP TODAY
Snowshoeing By Christine Gianas Weinheimer
Under a blanket of snow, Yellowstone’s landscape is transformed, and so is the park experience. From photography to wildlife watching and geyser gazing, any familiar activity can seem new and different in the wintertime. What you choose to wear on your feet in winter may also allow you to see and do things in Yellowstone you might otherwise miss. Several Yellowstone trails offer fantastic beginner snowshoeing. Among them are: • Old Canyon Bridge Ski Trail 1 MILE (CANYON)
“Snowshoes let you get out of your car and explore more of the park — maybe discover a small waterfall or wander through a forested area looking for birds,” says Yellowstone Forever Institute instructor Julianne Baker, who will co-lead the Institute’s newest field seminar this winter: Yellowstone by Ski or Snowshoe. “It’s a fun and convenient way
• Upper Terrace Loop
to tour the park on scenic trails, even when the snow is deep,” says Baker. “Like walking,
• Bannock Ski Trail
stops to look around or take photos.”
1.5 MILES (MAMMOTH) 2 MILES (LAMAR)
• Tower Fall Ski Trail
5 MILES (TOWER-ROOSEVELT)
• Black Sand Basin Ski Trail 4 MILES (OLD FAITHFUL)
• Observation Point Loop Snowshoe Trail
2 MILES (OLD FAITHFUL)
it’s easy to balance while carrying binoculars or a camera, and it’s easy to make sudden If you’ve never been on snowshoes before and are intimidated by the prospect, Baker says don’t be. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.” She explains that there’s a very small learning curve compared to cross-country skiing, and most people quickly find snowshoes easy to maneuver. Many Yellowstone trails are groomed for skiing and snowshoeing throughout the winter season, including some boardwalks. Thermal areas, such as the Upper Geyser Basin surrounding Old Faithful, are particularly enchanting during the wintertime. “The juxtaposition of colorful hot springs, steam, and cold snow is incredible and well worth braving the cold weather to see,” says Baker. Baker offers a few tips for beginners, including the use of poles to help with balance and starting out simple by staying on groomed trails before venturing off into parts unknown. Also, the most basic etiquette rule to remember is to avoid snowshoeing directly on ski tracks.
B E F O R E YO U G O If you don’t have your own snowshoes you can rent them at the Bear Den Ski Shop in either Mammoth or Old Faithful. Some shops in gateway communities also offer rentals.
Talk with park rangers before your outing and get specific information on conditions such as safety warnings or wildlife closures.
Inquire at the Ski Shop about current trail conditions and whether trails that interest you require a shuttle drop-off. You can also get ski shuttle information at ynplodges.com/skiing.
Remember that safety guidelines from summer still apply: Stay on marked boardwalks when in thermal areas, and keep your distance from wildlife: at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from bison and other large animals. It’s a good idea to carry bear spray.
Wear waterproof, lace-up boots that fit well but provide room to wiggle your toes even with thick socks. Be prepared for changing weather conditions. Bring a pack with warm layers, extra gloves, and sunscreen. Also bring extra water—snowshoeing can be vigorous exercise.
Christine Gianas Weinheimer lives in Bozeman, Montana, and has been writing about Yellowstone for 17 years.
YQ | 19
S P OT L I G H T
The 14th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem took place in September 2018 at Big Sky Resort in Big Sky, Montana.
Biennial Scientific Conference Explores Human Impact in Yellowstone What will the future hold for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem? Decades from now, what wildlife will still thrive here? What will visitors find when they arrive in Yellowstone National Park? There was not a crystal ball in sight, but rather plenty of scientists and other experts gathered to address those questions at the 14th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Around 300 people attended the conference, hosted by Yellowstone Forever, which took place September 11 to 14, 2018, in Big Sky, Montana. Since 1991 the Biennial Scientific Conference has brought together scientists, students, academics, land managers, and the general public to build relationships and protect treasured public lands for future generations. This year’s conference theme, Tracking the Human Footprint, focused on the human experience and the role scientific research and communication will play in shaping future management of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
to look at the big picture of our increasing human impact on the ecosystem. We need a multidisciplinary approach to figure out how to deal with growth and not only protect Yellowstone but also the quality of the experiences we are able to enjoy in the park.” An impressive group of more than 100 presenters from around the U.S. spoke at the conference. Environmental economist Dr. Ray Rasker delivered the keynote address, during which he discussed the value of public lands like Yellowstone from an economic perspective. Other speakers included Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative president and chief scientist Jodi Hilty, PhD; Wildlife Conservation Society senior scientist Joel Berger, PhD; and environmental historian, author, and fire expert Stephen J. Pyne. Workshop topics ranged from ungulate migration and climate trends to strengthening community partnerships. Several sessions explored subjects related to this year’s theme on the human experience such as analyzing visitor use patterns and managing traffic congestion in and around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The 15th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will take place in the fall of 2020. Watch for more information on Yellowstone.org or Facebook @GYEConference.
“Yellowstone is beloved by people worldwide,” said Heather White, president & CEO of Yellowstone Forever. “We were proud to play a role in bringing together this diverse group of experts 20
Join the Yellowstone Guardians Kick off the new year with the most sustainable way to support the park you love. For as little as $10 per month, you can increase the value of your donation by reducing printing and mailing costs, ensuring more of your contribution goes directly to priority projects and education initiatives in Yellowstone. Please visit Yellowstone.org/guardians or call 406.848.2400 to join or upgrade your monthly support today.
Mist from Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features combined with falling snow can create “ghost trees” during periods of extreme cold.
YQ | 21
PO Box 117, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190 406 | 848 | 2400 Yellowstone.org
education officer for Yellows tone are working Forever. So togethe r to help a residential new generat the Nationa l Park Service programs ion fall in in the park. (NPS) and love with Yellows Yellows tone Last year, through life-chatone Forever Yellows tone nging day educati served more on than 2,500 opport unities programs for elemen youth in a continu tary through range from um of multiAdventure college -aged introdu ctory (MYA), to student experie nces month-long Conservation like My Yellows s. The immersion Corps (YCC), programs resource in which like the Yellows tone projects and high-school tone learn about based Expedit students conservation comple te ion Yellows careers. Curricu use the park tone and High School as a living lumclassroom, come alive Field making science Experie nce for fourth student s. and history College studentto eighth grade and high-sc can study s in Steward hool resource ship of Public issues like climate change Lands bison manage ment and roles citizens to better underst and the , complic ated manage 7 2 0 1ations, L Loforganiz F Ament and agencie our public s play in land legacy. the “What’s import ant about connec Yellows tone ting youth is that they won’t just and park to enthusiasts, be future visitors they’ll be will care for the next ones parks,” says who educat ion Beth Taylor, program Yellows tone manage r. that matter. “It’s their They are voices going to decide with places like Yellows what to do tone.”
Quarterly Y ELLOWSTONE
Back on the hill above reverent and the river, the mood sometimes is students share emotional as the MYA their stories. experie nce This can be for a powerf ul on an airplane kids who may never have been , much less park. “For visited a the first time nationa l in my life says S.A. I saw the from Pittsbu stars,” rgh. “Where hard to see I live it’s very even 10 of them in the also lots of laughte sky.” There r over the is experie nces. re-telling Jess Haas, of shared who oversee Foreve r youth, college s Yellows tone describ es , and teache the transfo r program rmation of the photog s, raphy assignm visible over the course there are ents: “At a lot of selfies the beginni to landsca and picture ng, pes. As you s of people progres s more about next through the pictures of week, it’s the landsca they are picking pe, picture out that are s of things becomes meaningful the center to them. The of the story. park It happen s every time.” Yellows tone programs that go beyond provide healthy outdoo legacy. Whethe simply connec ting r experie nces kids with r it’s the self mounta in their public confide nce for the first land time, or learning that comes from these residen climbing tial experie to cook and a a new underst nces are life-cha nging, clean for the group, anding of themselves with nature. helping youth as well as “Today… discove forge deeply I climbed up I though a mounta personal connec r t I could never in and when Cincinnati. tions do it. But I was at the Hannah says I got there bottom looking and I felt of her YCC very brave… experie nce: .” says L.W. “I’ve come from to realize that hard work, 4
and beauty go hand-in whethe r that -hand. The people means from Chicago working in a conserv here have inspired me to make ation corps speaks of the world realizing the or turning Yellows tone, a better place, off the lights benefit s of I’ve learned unplugging in to leave my sitting behind from techno my bedroom.” B.A. comfor t zone my laptop logy: “After to appreci with nothing my trip to ate nature exciting to more instead do.” As amazin of g as a Yellows tone experie easy to bring nce can be, a group of it’s only half kids from wow’ experie Chicago out the story. nce “It’s here and more effectiv and just let them give them go,” says e in building the ‘oh Voorhis we have partner the next . “We are generation s who go of park suppor much back with make sure the kids to that what their commu ters if happened happening in Yellows nity and at home.” tone relates to what’s Community-ba sed organiz and Girls ations like Clubs Park Journey Youth Center of Tacoma , Washin s; Boys gton; Gary in Chicago Elementary Comer ; and schools in Wyomi like Kemme ng are key and ensurin rer to recruiti g that the ng student interest sparked becomes s a lifelong in Yellows love of public tone trip excitem lands. By ent and facilitati building prefor student ng post-trip s to share opportunities partners their experie build nces, these around Yellows a powerf ul commu nity culture youth program tone. Bob Fuhrma nn, Yellows manage r, tone Yellows tone points to student s Expedi tion from 30 years now returnin ago who g with their are the experi own classes ence full , bringing from their circle . With communities, suppor become ambass adors— the students themse t lves for Yellows sharing a tone with new passion others through photography exhibitions, art and convers science present shows, ations with ations, local lawmak ers. Looking to the future, NPS staff are working togethe and Yellowstone Forever ways to engage r to the next generatfind new and better the focus ion. In the is on collabo near term, conduc ting rating on current program joint staff and combin training , sharing resourc s, ing market Long term, ing and es, registration they are forming a education efforts . shared vision in Yellows tone, which of a new for youth state of the includes art student to the design Yellows tone, youth campus . The spark may idea: and ignite become a a spark. One bring a steady flame love and care day, that that helps for parks. a new generat ion According to B.F. from EVERY WHERE Clevela nd, it works: “The . The clouds you could view was cast amazin see the snow mounta ins g shadow that I will on s on the peaks remember of the mounta the ground , and forever…. this day on Whethe r I am making ins. It’s someth or not it’s a promise ing in 5 years to myself Jenny Golding or 20 years, to come back.” is a former from A Yellowston director e Life, and
of education for Yellowsto her home ne Forever. in Gardiner, She currently Montana , on the border runs of Yellowsto the website ne National Park.
YQ | 5
Go Paperless! 11/1/18
Connecting the Next Generation Golden Eagle Study Yellowstone’s Elk Migrations
11/1/18 12:41 PM
Yellowstone Quarterly is now available online! You can help save paper while still receiving all the latest news from Yellowstone Forever by subscribing to our digital edition.
To begin receiving your issue by email, visit