After traveling about 1,300 miles North from Southern California up through parts of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, I was overjoyed to see the West entrance of Yellowstone National Park. My passenger and I had never been to Yellowstone before, so it is safe to say that we were both shocked. A quick drive revealed the presence of bison, elk, deer, and stunning thermal features. We stayed to see the accurately predicted eruption of Old Faithful (hence the name) and then made our way to Bozeman, Montana. The trees were so tall and beautiful, with colors ranging from orange to yellow to green. Something so simple and ordinary, such as a bush, was incredible enough to make me look twice; its deep purple-red color contrasted with the ordinary green or yellow coloring I had expected to see.
Since visiting Yellowstone, I have had the wonderful opportunity to learn more about Bozeman, Montana. I am stationed here for the start of my internship, and I will spend the rest of my internship in Wyoming. Although the weather here is more variable than I expected, I am very satisfied with what I have discovered thus far.
Montana has breathtaking landscapes that are interrupted by the occasional odd ball, such as the Devil’s Slide (a sliver of mountain that is different shades of red, comparable to a slice of bacon), which is amazing in and of itself. Huckleberries, a berry that can only be found in the wilderness, are absolutely delicious (especially in ice cream!). There are many trails in and around Bozeman, such as the hike to the M, the Three Forks trail in Missouri Headwaters State Park, and the trail to see where Native Americans ran buffalo off of a cliff in Madison Buffalo Jump State Park.
This summer I will be conducting fieldwork on upland vegetation, climate, rivers and streams, amphibians, and whitebark pine; these environmental indicators provide information on the health of the surrounding ecosystems. We seek to determine the status (current conditions) and trends (changes over time) of these indicators and relay our findings to park management. This research is important because it influences decisions surrounding preservation and management of National Parks such as Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and Yellowstone National Park. In my opinion, knowing how to conserve the natural beauty of these parks, including the wildlife, vegetation, and overall ecosystem interactions, is a complex but rewarding process, as our work may extend the lifetime of the parks for future generations to enjoy.
I am incredibly excited to learn more about Montana, Wyoming, and Yellowstone National Park; words cannot describe how thankful I am for Mosaics In Science, the Greater Yellowstone Inventory and Monitoring network, and the Yellowstone Center for Resources.
More to come once we begin fieldwork!