Our last day in the Tetons was full, productive and fun! We awoke to a sky full of stars and the mountains literally glowing in the moonlight. In the morning we gathered the last bit of data needed for our individual projects. We then came inside to do analysis and create posters for a final presentation. Following that, students chose whether they wanted to go out for a cross-country ski or stay indoors to do art. The group split up and enjoyed time to explore how they wanted. The evening culminated with a symposium where they shared their research findings following by a celebration of the week. What a fantastic group of thoughtful individuals. Each person made the most of the week by expressing perseverence, humility and gratitude, making the experience a joy for all.
For many, the pancakes and bacon were a great way to begin a big day in the field. After a student-led Bible lesson time and a wonderful program on communicating data through infographs, based on their interests, the students created scientific questions to investigate. Four groups formed around the following questions: 1) How does species richness vary across elevation? 2) How does snowpack among different communities impact conditions favorable for subnivian life? 3) Which biotic community attracts the most animal biodiversity? 4) How do biotic factors impact snow crystal formation across the snowpack? The evening was filled with leadership and teambuilding activities, capping off a fantastic day. The instructors who led the team building activities were floored by this group’s kindness, respect, and functionality. It was a full day of great data collection and awesome student energy.
This morning we were greeted by the magnificent Teton range out in all its glory. Sunny day provided clear views and a gorgeous sunrise and sunset. In the morning, we went to the National Wildlife Art Museum and explored the question, “How does art inspired by wilderness contribute to conservation?” It was powerful to see how students identified ethics expressed in works of art. After the museum, we drove to Miller Butte in hopes of seeing big horn sheep. We were not disappointed! Following the exciting finds, we took a sleigh ride at the National Elk Refuge, learning in depth about the controversial topic of feeding the elk. We wrapped up the evening with a fiery (yet very respectful) debate that highlighted each of the stakeholders who are part of this controversial management practice. We sought consensus and some groups found it. Be sure to ask what their thoughts are on feeding the elk and why!
What an active day we had! After french toast for breakfast, Bible lesson, and journal/art time, we boarded the vans and went deep into Teton National Park to the renowned Bradley Taggart Lake trailhead. There, we put on snowshoes, learned some basic skills, and set off in our two study groups. To answer today’s essential question – How have major abiotic forces shaped our biotic communities? – we studied the unique geology of the area, better understood what burning can do to a lodge pole pine tree community, and dove into snow science. At the end of the day, the last of our classmates arrived so it is wonderful to all be here. It looks like tomorrow will more cold and clear and again promises to be a fun day packed with learning!
Our first full day in the Tetons was full of discovery! Cross country skiing to learn about winter adaptations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem was the order-of-the-day. Lots of people were getting outside their comfort zones trying cross country skiing for the first time. Students gained a deeper appreciation of this winter landscape as they tried their hand at watercolor painting. This evening, they had the opportunity to visit the Murie Museum here on the Teton Science School campus. It’s a world-renowned collection of Olaus Murie’s work as a naturalist. The group supported one another magnificently all day. We’re looking forward to snow-shoeing and snow science tomorrow!
We have arrived!! Smooth travels through Salt Lake City and into Jackson made for an enjoyable morning after an early departure. On our drive to campus from the airport, we were excited to see bison and moose off the roadside. We jumped right into programming with the TSS staff. All are eager to get out into the field tomorrow for some cross country skiing.
Our last full day in the Tetons was filled with analyzing data from the research projects and some free time for skiing and creative journaling. During the evening time, students were dynamite presenting their research. Each group presented their findings, methods, and answered questions from a panel of experts. It was clear that students had gained a deeper understanding of their research topics on sinuosity of herbivores and carnivores, snow pack found in different plant communities, and snow insulation for small mammals.
Research day! Today was all about doing research in the field. Students divided into research groups based on interest and headed out to collect data. We had a group looking at sinuosity of animal tracks, another digging snow pits to determine the best habitat for subnivian mammals, and a 3rd group digging snow pits in different plant communities and observing differences in snow crystals. In the evening, students participated in an Elk mediation where they took on the roles of different local stakeholders to debate the controversial topic of feeding the elk. They really got into their roles and had a productive debate!
Today had a completely different feel then our first two field days. In the morning we went to the National Wildlife Art Museum and explored the incredible collection of wildlife art. Students were given a quote that tied to conservation and they explored the Museum to find a piece that they thought best captured the quote. They each gave a brief presentation on their findings. After the museum, we drove to Miller Butte to check out the big horn sheep that were there! We used spotting scopes to get an up-close look. After that, we drove to the Visitor’s Center in town and got an in-depth lesson on the nearby Elk Refuge and the controversial practice of feeding the Elk. We followed up this lesson by going on a sleigh ride in the Elk Refuge for up-close views of the wild elk. In the evening we started formulating our scientific research questions which are going to carry us through for the rest of the trip!