Showing posts from March, 2012

Counting the Elk

We're back to count the elk!  Each spring, the central Yellowstone (Madison, Firehole, and Gibbon River drainages) wintering elk herd is surveyed to obtain an estimate of the population size.  To do this, the project, run by Robert Garrott at Montana State University, performs what is called Mark-Resight surveys.  Basically, we "mark" (or instrument with a VHF collar) several elk (we try to maintain 10% of the population marked).  We then go back and count all the elk, comparing the number of marked individuals to unmarked individuals, allowing us to get a population estimate.  If we do this multiple times, we get an average population estimate.  This method has been used successfully on this project for many years.  Here is the count data from after the wolves were reintroduced until last year.  What will it be this year??

It is a very fascinating story, as you can see.  The elk herd declined significantly, to 10% of its original size.  Many of these elk migrated out, …

New Horizons

It is a bittersweet moment for an aspiring ecologist.  Living life purely as a seasonal technician is a wonderful blend of challenge, excitement, and constant change.  The past few years of my life as a tech have been the best I have ever had.  At first, it was simply a desire to have adventure; but, as natural selection and forces outside of myself have taken action, this has given way to a striving for something more.  And here I now sit, on the edge of change, waiting for new forces to suck me in.  Graduate school looms!  (Maybe I speak too soon, as I have not been "officially" accepted, but I'll take that risk).  My advisor, Robert Garrott at Montana State University, and I are currently working out the details of what my program will look like, but it will definitely be related to the ecology of bighorn sheep and mountain goats in the greater Yellowstone area.  You can read more about the overall project here:

This is a terribly…