From Sunny Skies to Shadowy Depths

From Sunny Skies to Shadowy Depths

Although I am conducting my research at Wind Cave, Mount Rushmore, and Jewel Cave, I am most familiar with Wind Cave (WICA) as this is the park I am based at and the one I will be introducing to you all today. Wind Cave National Park is located in the Black Hills, which are in the western region of South Dakota. WICA is quite remarkable in that there is a separate world that exists above ground and one that exists below ground. As its name suggests, Wind Cave is famous for its expansive cave system that stretches 149.01 miles, making it the fifth longest cave in the world and the second longest in North America. I’ve had the pleasure of exploring the cave both on guided walking tours and caving tours. The walking tours are open to the public and are led by a park guide who explains the history and science behind the caves. The wild caving tours, on the other hand, are not open to the public this year and consist of crawling through narrow passageways in the caves while wearing helmets, kneepads, and headlamps. It was my first time caving and despite the bruised legs and dusty red clothes, I can’t wait to explore the caves again 😀

Caving with my roommates! From left to right: Bayleigh Bisner, Britney Jensen, and Brooke Su (me).

Sitting above these caves is the portion of the park that is often overlooked: the expansive Great Plains. The grasslands are home to a diversity of amazing wildlife that I get to study as part of my job: bison, elk, pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs, and more! As part of the park’s Resource Management division, I assist the wildlife biologist with all of the ongoing wildlife projects. Just this week, I mapped prairie dog towns using GIS, conducted a bison survey, and collected dragonflies with a group of citizen scientists! The ever-changing components of my job keep me excited and motivated to go to work everyday 🙂

Bison survey with my supervisor, Angela Jarding, who is the Wildlife Biologist at WICA.
1 Comment
  • Junling Ma
    Posted at 23:42h, 27 July

    Excellent program, and great job!