In 1959, the father of modern ecology, G. Evelyn Hutchinson, described the “biosphere in which organisms live” as The Ecological Theater and Evolutionary Play. While no single expression can fully capture the grandeur and complexity that is the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and its inhabitants, we will be using Hutchinson's description as a both a metaphor and template for this exciting Winter Session class. In short, the ecological theatre references the 22 million acres that is the GYE (of which 2.2 million acres are protected as the world’s first National Park) comprising all of its abiotic and biotic processes and interactions (including human-shaped) that occupy this extraordinary landscape, while the evolutionary play references processes in deeper evolutionary time—the diverse behavioral, anatomical, and physiological adaptations that facilitate animal life in the GYE. This course focuses on the large-bodied mammals that are readily observed during winter, especially carnivores and ungulates (e.g., wolves, coyotes, red fox, pronghorn antelope, bison, and elk). A fundamental element of this class is the recognition that natural ecosystems do not exist in a vacuum but are instead situated in broader anthropogenic landscapes in which humans and wild animals must coexist. No issues are more pressing in terms of wildlife conservation and management and these issues get played out on a daily basis in the GYE, with multiple stakeholders. Thus, in addition to evolutionary and ethnographic theory, students gain insight into realities of animal-human coexistence in the Anthropocene. After attending this class, students gain rigorous, experiential knowledge of animal ecology and behavior both in the evolutionary past and ecological present, field methods in ecology, behavior, and ethnography, and an appreciation of the exigencies of human-wildlife issues in the 21st century.
Taught in collaboration with Yellowstone Forever—the educational institute of Yellowstone National Park—this intensive learning experience includes several weeks of on-line interaction and two weeks in the field, living in the famous Lamar Buffalo Ranch (LBR) in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park. LBR is famous for its historical role in serving as the site where bison were saved from local extirpation in the early 20th century as well as its role in serving as a site for housing wolves that were reintroduced in 1995-1996. At the LBR, the course is divided into field excursions for animal observation, field laboratory exercises, classroom lecture, group projects and individual presentations. We work very closely with Yellowstone staff who accompany us to the field each day and provide critical support during this winter season. Mornings are spent in the field, afternoons in lecture, and evenings spent in group discussion or presentations. In field excursions, students learn methods in observing and measuring animal behavior, habitat parameters, and winter ecology. In addition, students meet with local stakeholders, including ranchers, animal advocacy groups, and representatives from the National Park System. These interactions with stakeholders give students the opportunity to learn ethnographic and participant observation methods.
Students earn a total of 6 credits through a combination of:
- ANTH 4020
- EBIO 4460 & ENVS 4100
- EBIO 4460 & ANTH 4020
- ENVS 4100 & ANTH 4020
Please speak with your advisor to discuss the best option for your academic needs.
This is a low-resident hybrid course that includes elements of both online and in-residence learning.
- December 8, 2018: Mandatory in-person orientation.
- December 23-30, 2018: Online component offered through CU Boulder's student portal, Canvas.
- January 1-10, 2019: Residential component in Yellowstone National Park.
A NOTE ON PHYSICAL FITNESS AND ACTIVITY LEVEL: This course is a field course and you will need to be both an intelectually and physically active participant. This means you can expect brisk hiking and snowshoeing, upwards of 3-6 miles per day, with climbs of approximately 500-1000 feet at altitudes ranging from 7,000 to 9,000 feet. Also, please note that flexibility in this winter setting is key; snow and temperature can influence arrival and departure times and other field program details. In some (very rare) cases, in blizzards or extremely cold temperatures, field activities may be modified.