By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor
BOZEMAN – Yellowstone National Park offers a different experience for each and every one of its visitors every time they set foot or wheel within park boundaries. From wildlife viewing and photography to geology, backcountry hiking or history, the nation’s first park abounds with opportunity. In order to enrich visitor experiences, and provide more in-depth opportunity, the Yellowstone Forever Institute holds year-long field seminars that connect people to the park.
“The field seminars have been one of our cornerstones, dating all the way back into the ‘70s,” said Yellowstone Forever Director of Education Robert Petty. “They offer people a much more in-depth look [at] and experience in the park. [Participants] can experience the park in a much more intimate way. Some of the instruction is indoors … but the real experience is outdoors.”
Days are packed with adventure, as participants explore what the park has to offer with experts in a given field including professors, naturalists, scientists, photographers, writers, historians and artists. Programs are often based at the historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch in the Lamar Valley, which was in operation from 1906 until the 1950s, serving as the breeding facility and center of the park’s efforts to bring back the bison population. For an additional cost, participants can stay at the ranch and enjoy the cozy log cabins miles away from any other built structure.
Programs range from a single day to three week intervals, and topics vary widely. This fall, bird specialist Katy Duffy will lead a two-day course on raptors in the park which will include raptor identification and ecology as well as bird viewing. In a separate course, visitors will have an opportunity to learn about 14 women significant to the development of Yellowstone in a seminar called “Women in Wonderland.” There will also be courses on hiking, wildlife watching and photography designed to highlight autumn changes within the park.
Wildlife biologist and cinematographer Brad Bulin will teach a three-day course about Yellowstone wolves Sept. 23-26 that explores the wolf’s relationship with other animals and with humans. He will also teach a more in-depth course on watching wildlife with an eye for science. Participants will learn about the ways animals fit into the ecosystem, how to identify behaviors and hear from park scientists about their most recent research in Yellowstone.
Winter field seminars will feature additional photography and wildlife viewing, as well as courses on native peoples in the park, wilderness first aid, and specific animal species, such as mountain lion and coyote. Many of these programs are recognized by universities across the country and will qualify for continuing education credit.
Each of the programs are hosted by the park’s nonprofit partner, Yellowstone Forever, which was formerly the Yellowstone Association and Yellowstone Park Foundation. Yellowstone Forever is responsible for the park’s educational outreach and engagement, and in addition to the regular field seminar series, Yellowstone Forever offers private tours, as well as workshops for youth.
To learn more about the Yellowstone Forever programs and field seminars, or to see a full schedule, visit yellowstone.org/experience/yellowstone-forever-institute.