NOTES FROM THE FIELD GREATER YELLOWSTONE AND THE GALLATIN RANGE
Evan Iskenderian - Jackson Lang - Brooke Meredith - Michael Romney Lone Peak High School Student Researchers
A University of Montana – Lone Peak High School CAS Research & Publishing Project The University of Montana and Lone Peak High School thank the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation for their support and Hammond Property Management for providing meeting space.
Last academic year – 2019 – 2020, four Lone Peak High School seniors, Maya Johnson, Noelle Miller, Niamh Gale and Livvy Milner completed their CAS project, part of Lone Peak High Schools International Baccalaureate Degree, by focusing on Yellowstone National Park. Their findings and information were published in the Lone Peak Lookout.
CAS is an acronym for Creativity, Action and Service. The creative aspect is developing a subject plan, action is carrying out the research and writing and service is sharing their findings with the Big Sky community through essays in the Lone Peak Lookout, Big Sky’s newspaper.
During this summer past, four LPHS student researchers – Brooke Meredith, Michael Romney, Evan Iskenderian and Jackson Lang began their 2020 - 2021 CAS effort. They chose the Gallatin Range to provide Big Sky folks with a better understanding of a mountain range they see every day or drive by on their way down the canyon to Bozeman or south to West Yellowstone. The students will cover at least four subjects each time they pen an article for the paper. And Brooke will create original art to go with photos.
Dr. Kate Eisele of Lone Peak High School and Dr. Rick Graetz from the University of Montana are the co-instructors and advisors for the project.
An Introduction to the students and their projects:
Big Sky, my home since preschool, is a natural environment that has given me so much. Now, through our exciting Lone Peak High School CAS project, I can present and connect past knowledge with new research that the project will uncover. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and its surrounding area is a unique and extraordinary setting and I look forward to exploring the intricacies of this truly special place. Over the next couple of months, our LPHS team will share what we learn with the Big Sky community. There is so much to discover, and I can’t wait to get started!
Wildlife Migration - As one of the most discussed topics throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, wildlife migration patterns provide an excellent bridge between biology and history. This exploration involves an in-depth look into wolf reintroduction, and how the presence of wolves (as an apex predator in the GYE) influences other wildlife populations. We plan to discuss these issues with Yellowstone Park biologists, as well as experts from Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Forest Service.
Climate Change - Another topic critical to the future of this ecosystem is climate change. We will explore how warming temperatures will affect all aspects of the GYE, including wildlife, local flora, snow levels and river systems. Individual and group efforts to mitigate climate change and global warming in the region will also be explored.
Since moving to Montana two summers ago, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending time in both Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas. Now, my involvement with this LPHS CAS project will allow me to not only experience more of the outstanding scenery of this area, but also learn about Yellowstone’s complex ecosystem.
Another reason I was intrigued by this CAS was because of the journalistic component. This summer, I had the opportunity to take a journalism class, and learned about all the intricacies that go into a well-written article. I am excited to improve my writing skills and educate my fellow community members through this project.
Petrified Forest - Petrified wood is one of the strangest, yet fascinating occurrences in nature. The phenomenon takes place when plant material is buried underneath sediment and protected from decay. After water flows through the sediment, the plant material is replaced with some type of inorganic material, whether it be silica, calcite, or opal. Of course, this process can take up to millions of years, but the end result is a fossilized version of the original plant, often one that looks identical to the pre-petrified version.
Yellowstone National Park has its own petrified forest, and the fossilized trees are said to be almost 50 million years old. Through my CAS project, I hope to explore this area, learning more about the type of trees that were fossilized and how they impact their surrounding environment.
Although I haven’t lived in Big Sky for very long, only about 4 years, as a family we have been traveling to this area of the Greater Yellowstone since a very young age and have always been fascinated by the flora and fauna. I see this LPHS CAS project as an engaging and exciting way to get to know the area even better than just by looking out at my backyard. Along with learning about our ecosystem, this program also gives me a chance to improve my writing abilities, as our group will be able to share our discoveries in the local paper. And I will also have the opportunity to share watercolor paintings of places we research within our articles. I am excited to get going!
Migration Patterns - Wolves, grizzly bears, elk, bison, moose, deer, birds of prey and many other species of wildlife call the Greater Yellowstone’s northwest corner their home. In my days out in the wild I have seen changes, especially in the numbers of visible elk. To the best of my knowledge, this because of an external force. I have an idea wolves are the issue, but I am not exactly sure and want to know the answer. My research will bring out the dynamics of not only elk movement but travels of other animals as well. The results will be shared with the Big Sky community.
The complexity of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem is what makes it so intriguing. I chose to become involved with this LPHS CAS project to learn more about the complex aspects of the ecosystem, and their relation to Big Sky, specifically its trails. I look forward to sharing my findings with the community.
In doing this project, I will continue my hobbies of soccer and hockey while exploring Gallatin the Range through running, biking, and skiing.
Fire Regimes- Prevalent in many places on the west coast, forest fires are an important part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They help nourish the soil and reduce competition allowing for surviving trees and other plants to grow stronger. Our research will investigate the forest fire patterns in the GYE and their impact on flora and fauna.