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PETE Senior Design Team 12 Spring 2016
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PETE Senior Design Team 14 Spring 2016
PETE Senior Design Team 1 Fall 2016
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PETE Senior Design Team 3 Fall 2016
PETE Senior Design Team 1 Spring 2017
PETE Senior Design Team 2 Spring 2017
Eight in-service teachers and two instructors engaged in an inquiry-based geology field course from June 14 to 29, 2014 through Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska. This team of learners spent three days in mid-June working in the Grand Teton National Park area. The UW-NPS facilities provide an excellent opportunity for participants to discover the natural history of the Teton Range, as well as close-out a few projects while sitting in a real chair, at a real table, a welcome change from our usual campground setting.
Field Research & Conservation emphasizes long-term field research experiences, examines ecosystem processes, and investigates the evolution of American perspectives about nature. Our time spent at the UW-NPS research station is divided between pursuing behavioral ecology research and exploring Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding area. These experiences help students gain understanding of how the region was shaped by geological, biological, and political processes that have been influenced by America’s evolving conservation ethic. After the summer field experience, my students assist in data analysis and the development of a poster project. We present our findings at the Phi Sigma Research Symposium at Illinois State University and the St. Louis Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Retreat at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
The objective of this project was to consolidate all previous work on water rights in the park into a single geodatabase that could be updated and built on in the future. Priority areas specifically for this project were Cottonwood and Spread Creeks, with the goal being to identify all water rights and associated ditches being diverted off of these creeks.
Charismatic “flagship” species are used in many parts of the world to raise public awareness or financial support for conservation, both among local people living in the area and among potential donors living far away. Flagship species can serve as symbols to stimulate conservation awareness and action and have been particularly valuable because of their potential to change citizen behavior, including involvement in conservation and support of fundraising. For a flagship to be successful, however, the target audience and conservation objectives must be established and understood before implementing the concept. Researchers have suggested that a successful flagship should possess traits that endear it to the public, should not be feared or disliked, nor have been used to convey conflicting messages of conservation. Therefore, critical to the flagship approach is understanding attitudes, species preferences, level of wildlife knowledge of people living near and living far away for which support is sought. To determine if the river otter (Lontra canadensis) could be a successful flagship for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), we conducted social science surveys with visitors to Grand Teton National Park who participated in guided-raft trips on the Snake River (n = 768), visitors of Oxbow Bend (n = 254), a popular turn-out for viewing aquatic wildlife, and visitors to Trout Lake in Yellowstone National Park (n = 298). Preliminary results showed that familiarity with the river otters is area dependent (e.g., Trout Lake visitors were more familiar with the species than those visiting Oxbow Bend or rafting the Snake River), river otters are not controversial, but education is needed to better inform the public about river otters’ occurrence and ecosystem function in GYE.
In August and September, 2014, two eight- day archaeological surveys were conducted by the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum in Caribou-Targhee National Forest and Grand Teton National Park. This project, the inaugural season of the Teton Archaeological Project, investigated high-altitude passes, basins, and ice patches for prehistoric archaeological sites. In total, during the 2014 season 28 archaeological sites were recorded ranging from Paleoindian (9,000 BP) to Late-Prehistoric (1,000 BP) in age. The results of this field season investigation provide an enlightened understanding of prehistoric life in the high Tetons and will offer a solid foundation for future archaeological surveys and research questions.
Painter Cave (48PA3288) is a dry rockshelter in the foothills of the Absaroka Mountains of northwestern Wyoming that has deeply stratified deposits. Archaeological materials were disturbed several decades ago by looters, who reportedly took a number of perishable Native American artifacts including moccasins and a cradle board, as well as numerous other unidentified objects. Preliminary assessment by Shoshone National Forest Service personnel in 2011 suggested that the site might still be partially intact. Indiana University’s Bighorn Archaeology project conducted a pilot study at Painter Cave and the surrounding area in 2014 in an effort to identify and recover any additional cultural deposits. Artifact recovery addressed local landscape use, cultural chronology of the area, subsistence strategies, and environmental conditions. The looter activity unfortunately proved to be extensive. Although team members identified numerous archaeological signatures at different sites in the study area, primary deposits in the shelter itself were disturbed in such a way that investigation into the use of Painter Cave by past peoples was challenging.
North American moose (Alces alces) populations are declining across much of their southern distribution from the Canadian Maritimes to the Rocky Mountain range of the Shiras moose subspecies (Alces alces shirasi). Shiras moose population declines have been documented in Montana and Wyoming with reduced productivity reported from Utah and Colorado. These declines are due to a combination of factors including the natural succession, loss, and degradation of habitat; predation by wolves and bears; disease caused by infection from artery worm; and parasitism by moose ticks. The effects of heat stress may also contribute to chronic malnutrition and a reduction in female fertility. Significant reductions in Montana and Wyoming moose populations adjacent to Yellowstone National Park (YNP) are indicative of regional moose population declines and suggest that moose numbers may be decreasing in YNP as well. In the northern portion of YNP, also known as the Northern Range (NR), significant loss of riparian willow browse due to overgrazing by elk for decades and by bison more recently, the reduction of mature and old-growth conifer forests from the fires of 1988 and from disease more recently have reduced both winter habitat quality and quantity for moose. Several moose with cropped ears, an external sign of the disease Elaeophorosis, or artery worm, have been observed over the past few years on the NR suggesting that the disease may also be present in YNP. Northern Range estimates of moose have decreased from almost 400 in 1970 to possibly fewer than 100 today. Despite evidence suggesting moose decline in YNP, no current population data exists. Knowledge of population demographics serves as a critical baseline for evaluating and understanding factors leading to population declines. However, because moose are solitary, prefer densely vegetated habitats, and are present at low densities, collecting population data is challenging. Traditional methods of studying moose that require capture, radio-collaring, and aerial surveys are costly, sometimes produce unreliable results, can be harmful to the study animal, and are discouraged in some jurisdictions such as national parks. Non-invasive sampling, the collection of data without having to capture, handle, or in any manner physically restrain study animals, has proven to be a valuable tool for acquiring accurate population data from free-ranging ungulates when using traditional methods is neither feasible nor practical. In December 2013, we initiated a three-year non-invasive moose population study in YNP with the main objective to estimate population demographics of NR moose. For three consecutive winters we will be systematically collecting fecal pellets from the extent of NR moose wintering habitat. We are extracting DNA from epithelial cells on the pellet surface and through genetic testing will be able to identify individual moose and their genders. Female pellet samples will be analyzed for pregnancy hormone concentrations to make inferences on pregnancy rates. Because fecal pellet size is directly related to moose size, and therefore to moose age, we will use various pellet measurements to differentiate between age classes. These data will be used in capture-recapture modeling to estimate population abundance and vital rates.