(Photo by Patrick Durkin)

When I first heard of Isle Royale National Park, I remember I was sitting in my ecology class at the University of Michigan. We had a whole week of just studying the predator and prey relationship’s here on the island. Isle Royale’s wolf and moose populations are known worldwide, as the longest predator and prey study conducted in the United States. One name has been linked to this project since the early 1970’s Rolf Peterson. The predator and prey project looks at studying the role predation plays within ecology and the domino effect it has on the environment surrounding it. Dr. Rolf Peterson specializes in mammalian ecology, predator- prey relationships, and the ecology/behavior of gray wolves.

The Bone Yard here at Isle Royale

During my stay here on Isle Royale I was given the opportunity to visit Dr. Rolf Peterson and his wife Candy at the historic Bangsund cabin that the park allows them to call home for the summer. This cabin is famous for being home to the boneyard, which is the largest collection of moose bones. This collection of bones helps with research on understanding moose death here on Isle Royale. Bones help us paint a story of what life was like for the moose. They tell us if something was broken, out of place, or if the animal had some kind of illness.

 It’s natural to feel nervous when meeting someone you idolize. I remember telling myself over and over again to not embarrass myself in front of him by saying something foolish. Looking back I am not exactly sure what I was expecting the interaction to go like, but I didn’t expect the extremely warm welcome I received. Both Rolf and Candy Peterson treated me like I was a long lost friend coming to visit. Giving me a tour of the property, answering any questions, and even feeding me homemade cinnamon bread. I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I was standing next to a researcher whose work I followed religiously throughout my college career. Even though he has been published and interviewed thousands of times, Dr. Peterson still had a down to earth and humble attitude about him – he was easy to talk to and I never once felt like I was be judged or laughed at for the questions I asked.

Candy and Rolf Peterson in front of the Bangsund Cabin. Photo from the Lansing State Journal

Listening to Candy speak about her philosophy on human kindness and the memories their family shared in this small cabin warmed my heart and inspired me to take some of her philosophy and apply into my own life. Candy has a way of making you feel like you have known her forever and will always keep the smiles and laughter flowing. I left that small cabin feeling hopeful, happy, and with new cherished memories. My passion for this field was inspired by my love for wolves and large carnivores. I didn’t realize I could actually work in this field and make a difference until I started to follow the research that Dr. Peterson published.

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