Wild Rockies Field Institute

Restoration Ecology in Greater Yellowstone

Dates: June 25-July 14, 2018

Cost: $3,245

Semester Credits: 3

Natural Resource Science & Management 311: Restoration Ecology in Greater Yellowstone (3 credits)

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If you want to get your hands dirty and gain real-world experience this summer, then this course is for you. Join us in the beautiful and famous Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where wildlife abounds – elk and their newborn calves, grizzly bears and wolves, bison, pronghorn antelope, golden eagles, sandhill cranes, and much, much more – and the wildflowers are exploding at this time of year.

Restoration ecology aims to assist in the recovery of the ecological integrity of ecosystems that have been damaged by human activity. This course explores the scientific, cultural and philosophical bases of restoration ecology through a combination of field investigations, readings, work projects, and meetings with land managers, and broadly considers means to restore healthy relationships between humans and the rest of nature.

During this course we will visit pristine roadless wildlands and sites with varying degrees of degradation from impacts such as logging, mining, and grazing to examine a range of landscape conditions and set the context for our study of restoration ecology. As a class, we will participate in restoration projects to benefit habitats in and around Yellowstone National Park, including efforts to reduce the non-native and ecologically harmful lake trout populations in Yellowstone National Park.

The high meadows, creeks, and subalpine forests of the Madison and Centennial Ranges provide ideal conditions to study montane ecology and to investigate the role of ecological restoration in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem processes. Students will learn the essentials of safe travel in bear country and experience the simple pleasures of backcountry living. We can expect to learn the tracks and sign of ungulates and carnivores, as well as become familiar with a wide variety of montane wildflowers.

The course is framed by two extended backpacking trips, during which we will study fundamental concepts of restoration ecology, examine the effects of different land uses on habitat conditions, conduct stream sampling projects to assess habitat conditions, and engage in related natural history studies and discussions.
We will also spend several days in the frontcountry, meeting land managers and working on projects involving habitat restoration on the Targhee and Gallatin National Forests, as well as the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

Course readings include excerpts from Gary Snyder's The Practice of the Wild, Conservation Biology by Meffe and Carroll, the journals Restoration Ecology and Ecological Restoration, endangered species recovery plans, Second Nature by Pollan, and the Streamkeeper's Field Guide by Murdoch and Cheo.


Enrollment will be limited to twelve [12] students. Our courses are multidisciplinary and our students come from all majors. There are no academic prerequisites for any of our courses. The best background is a sense of curiosity, a willingness to take responsibility for your academic growth, and a love of adventure. No prior backcountry experience is necessary, but this is a physically demanding course and students are advised to arrive good physical condition. This course takes place in high elevation settings and some backpacking sections will be physically challenging.

WRFI accepts students on a rolling admission basis and will review applications immediately upon receiving them. Currently, WRFI is accepting applications for all 2018 courses.

The first payment of 25% of tuition will be due three weeks after acceptance.

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$3,245 per student includes tuition, dinner food, on-course transportation, sampling and monitoring equipment, group camping and cooking gear, and incidental fees (maps, charts, study guides, etc.). Students will be expected to provide their own breakfast and lunch meals, and to print the course text. An additional $155 filing fee is required to receive academic credit for the course from the University of Montana.

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Restoration Ecology students and instructors on their way to Red Rocks National Wildlife Refuge, summer 2008.