By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor

This past summer, 40 citizen scientists
combed the western Centennial Mountains,
searching for signs of grizzly
bears. The group documented tracks
and collected scat and fur.

The Centennials, a range of 10,000-foot
peaks stretching between Island Park,
Idaho and Dillon, Montana, are the
largest east-west stretch of continental
divide in the Northern Rockies. Grizzlies
have rarely been documented in
the western part of the range, which
has seen recent proposals for natural
resource development.

Because of that, this study, conducted
by the Bozeman-based Adventurers
and Scientists for Conservation, could
be a landmark for the agencies that manage
the area. ASC will send the data to
a lab for DNA testing, and then prepare
a report for the
Dillon Bureau
of Land Management
field office.

Evidence of grizzlies
in the Centennials
would
help the BLM
make responsible
land management
decisions, said
ASC founder,
biologist Gregg
Treinish.

[dcs_img width=”300″ height=”270″ thumb=”true” framed=”black”
author=”photo courtesy of ASC” desc=”Grizzly print in western Centennial Mountains, near the Idaho-Montana border”]
http://www.explorebigsky.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/asc_grizzly-print-snow-centennial-mountains.jpg[/dcs_img]

“[The
Centennials are]
a perfect highway
for bears to move
from the Greater Yellowstone into the
Frank Church,” Treinish said. This, he
says, is vital for the species’ survival.

For Treinish, who started the non-profit
in January 2011, this project was an
opportunity to learn about one of the
most important wildlife corridors in the lower 48.

But that’s not all ASC does.
Most of their projects
match up outdoorsmen—
from high-level adventure
athletes to weekend warriors—
with scientists.

As of October, ASC had
over 200 people collecting
data in places like
Alaska, the Grand Canyon,
Venezuela, Switzerland,
Pakistan and the Eastern
Democratic Republic
of Congo. Climbers on
Everest have collected
plant samples for microbial
biologists studying climate
change, and trekkers in the
Andes have gathered data
on flora, fauna and archeology
for the Pacific Biodiversity
Institute.

While citizen science
sometimes gets a bad rap
because of its high potential
for error, labs independently
verify all of ASC’s
projects, removing that
concern from the equation.

“We’re simply the messengers,”
Treinish said.

For scientists, this saves
time and money they’d
otherwise have to spend
collecting data.

And as a result, he’s blowing
up. Hundreds of scientists
contact him monthly,
looking for data collectors.

The New York Times, and
Outside, Science, Science
News
and Audubon
magazines have all written
about his group.

“People really believe in
this concept,” said Treinish,
who admits to staying
up at night thinking of
new ways for ASC to make
a bigger impact.

A new program, Expedition
to the Classroom, will
stream live media from
remote places into high
school science classes. The
pilot project brings Antarctic
adventurers Doug
Stoup and Kris Erickson (a
Livingston-based photographer)
into high school
biology classes at Bozeman
High School and in
Ashville, N.C.

The students will interact
with the athletes through
video conferencing, email,
Facebook and photos, allowing
them to learn about
the scientific process as
it happens. The goal is to
have this program accessible
nationwide in two
years, virtually sending
students to the Amazon
or the Himalaya.

The major challenge
for this—as for all of
ASC’s work—is cost. The
organization is mostly
grant-funded, but also
works with individual
donors. Students have
put together their own
fundraising campaigns for
Expedition to the Classroom.

Treinish encourages
people to get involved.
He’s got projects for
everyone from day hikers
looking for pika in
Hyalite Canyon to professional
climbers on Mount
Everest.

“If you’ve ever felt like
you wanted do more with
your time in the woods,
this your opportunity.”
adventureandscience.org