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Archive for June, 2012

We finished the field component of the predator-prey ecology class this week in the Daly Creek drainage, Montana, Yellowstone National Park. We worked to collect information on how elk browsing habits related to physical barriers in aspen stands affects recruitment of aspen saplings. Here’s a bit of what we saw.

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Halls of Learning

This is a nostalgic post.

I walked into Lewis Hall this morning for the classroom portion of my predator-prey ecology class, and was instantly transported back to undergrad, to that great typical old-school biology building: long halls, worn stone steps, stairs on either end of the building, glass display cases with taxidermied birds and mammals, frosted glass on the top half of the wooden doors, labs with those long black tables, microscopes in cabinets. Now part of the nostalgia included the fact that the building isn’t air conditioned, and it does have that special biology lab smell. If you spent any significant time in Arey, before they built Olin, you know what I’m talking about. It really brought me right back.

Tomorrow’s classroom is in the Daly Creek drainage, which is in the section of Yellowstone National Park that extends along the Continental Divide into Montana, the most northwestern section of the park. We’ll be looking at predator-prey interactions between wolves and elk, to see what effects those interactions have on aspen growth in the area. The big question relates to whether the observable positive effects on aspen growth (since wolf reintroduction in 1996/97) are due to behavioral changes in the elk (the so-called “ecology of fear”), or whether it’s strictly a density-mediated change, related to the reduced population of elk (which were at an historic high before wolf reintroduction, at numbers upwards of 20,000!). Time to collect some data…

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image via montana.edu

I’m in Bozeman this week for an MSSE class on predator-prey ecology, which I’m really psyched about. Two (long) days in the classroom, and three days out in the field in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. I walked around campus this afternoon, got my bearings, and I’m looking forward to a good burger before I settle in for some light reading on trophic cascades, carrying capacities, isoclines, and the paradox of enrichment. I haven’t seen any elk or wolves yet, but when I do I’ll post some pictures.

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