A New Generation: Education and Conservation

On May 15, 2012, we visited The National Museum of Wildlife just outside of Jackson Hole, WY. The museum design was quite impressive and the architecture was both unique and unassuming. Upon arriving, our first impressions were that the museum was built from natural materials that blended well with the building’s environment. The building itself had a low profile and fit into the surrounding landscape subtly. As we entered, we gathered that the building was constructed to emulate a sense of the natural world and discovery. The artwork inside was also incredible and we believe the target audience to include conservationists, art enthusiasts, and tourists. We also believe that this museum serves as an important implement to engage the public to learn, be inspired, and strengthen their connection to the natural world. Originally museums were intended to serve as a place to house artifacts and works of art and preserve them for future study and appreciation. The museums of today are evolving to serve as a place of education and exposure to themes that function to give each individual their own subjective experience to take away. This educational and interpretive experience really works well to engage the public and potentially enlighten them on different perspectives of certain issues, including, in this case, wildlife conservation.

National Museum of Wildlife Art

A specific exhibit that touched us personally was the museum’s children’s exhibit. This section is special because it is an important step in protecting the future of Yellowstone and all natural ecosystems, which starts with our youth. Seeing a whole portion of the museum dedicated to fostering children’s imagination and strengthening their connection to nature is a positive step to the future of environmental accountability and awareness. The artwork of the children was also a good example of how the beauty of nature and other artists’ amazing works are inspiring kids to interpret nature for themselves and recreate their own versions of natural wonders.

Children's Gallery of National Museum of Wildlife Art

Children's Entry for the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Contest

The National Wildlife Museum is a place that has multiple functions but most importantly it shines a new light on the essence of Yellowstone. The exhibits and design of the facility were intended to create an opportunity of discovery and self-interpretation. There is great meaning behind the works of art and they represent an external expression of artists’ genuine passion and desire to inspire other people to learn from them and carry on with new art and conservation efforts. It is vital that this aspect of a museum helps others learn and understand this frame of analysis because Yellowstone is one of the last genuine wildernesses left in the United States. The future of conservation in this incredible land relies on fostering our youth’s imagination and attachment to wildlife and the environment. As we continue to create opportunities to target this audience we are solidifying the future of this land through education as we pass the responsibility of conservation management to well prepared, educated, and environmentally connected youth.

Yellowstone & Jackson Photos

A Place as Text Excursion: Gardiner, MT

This evening we ventured out into the town of Gardiner to grab a quick bite to eat at a local pizza spot. The weather was beautiful and the sun had finally broken through with a brisk cool breeze blowing. Gardiner is an incredibly small town and as we walked down the main road, it quickly became apparent how small and simple all the buildings and houses were. We all agreed that the town seemed very frontier-like in appearance and  the aesthetics of the buildings seemed to show its western heritage. The west has always represented a place of new beginnings and in one interview with a local girl named Cassie, a waitress at the local  K-Bar, she described her experience. ” I moved here this past summer with nothing and I was so surprised when I explained my situation to a local Hotel manager who was understanding enough to let me stay in his hotel for 5 days for free until I found work. After that I managed to find this waiting  job. The hotel manager offered me a position that let me work there and stay with a $100 rent fee subtracted out of my paycheck each month”. This gave us the impression that the people and businesses in Gardiner are very welcoming and friendly and each of us agreed that our encounters with the locals supported a welcoming environment.

The town itself has a unique connection to the magnificent natural environment around it and especially the Yellowstone river flowing right through the center of the town. We noticed a plethora of outdoor sports and recreation shops for rafting, kayaking, repelling, and hiking that stand out as the main attraction for tourists passing through.  It shows how the proximity to Yellowstone Park and the geography of the area influence the development of the town. We interviewed a local rafting outdoor shop employee named Kelly for insight into the socio-economic structure of the area. I asked her about the typical people that come through and whats its like to live in such a small town. She responded, ” Well you know most of the people are tourists, people coming through looking for that small town feel to really get out and experience the park and all the outdoor recreation the area has to offer”. I then asked if she was a full time resident and she said ” No actually I only work here in the summers and I banked on the fact that Gardiner is mostly a seasonal employment area and local businesses are often looking for new faces for summer jobs”. She said that Gardiner’s population is around 700 year round and shoots up to roughly 3,000 in the summers. She also said “most of the people that come through and experience the area fall in love with the town and the landscape and many come back time and time again and eventually move here”. She also told us that seasonal workers love the area for the river sports, the park and the great outdoor recreation hot-spots located nearby.

Gardiner is a very special place in that it represents a new beginning for people seeking a place of new discovery for the tourists that come here from all over the country and other countries. It is a place of a symbiotic existence between experience seeking tourists and welcoming and friendly locals who really benefit from the allure Gardiner has to so many people. The town itself has clearly developed to accommodate this special relationship to the wilderness around it and the spirit of the west that will continue captivate the hearts of the people that come here.

Place as Text: Gardiner, MT (Photos)

A Place as Text Excursion: Jackson, WY

We spent our morning walking down the streets of Jackson Hole, WY under clear and sunny skies. It quickly became apparent that the town’s economy heavily relies on the tourism industry. Local houses in the area we walked were small and shabby, yet the real estate establishments we passed had houses listed on their windows starting at $800,000+. We learned from  locals that the inflated prices designed to fund the tourist economy creates a large gap between the rich and poor in the area. Hotels and/or motels were stationed on the corner of every block. Tourist shops (similar to boardwalk at the beach) and old time photo booths lined the streets. We also spotted numerous museums, art galleries, and research centers in our walk downtown. One art gallery owner gave us a brief rundown of some of the local artists and photographers. She explained that Thomas Mangelsen was a famous local photographer whose photos were on display in her gallery. According to the woman he also “travels all around the world to take pictures of natural scenery and wildlife”.

Locals were friendly and many could be spotted running, walking their dogs, biking, or longboarding through the streets. Dogs were abundant, both indoors and outside, and few were leashed. After talking to locals we learned that the town has no leash laws. One local explained “the pet-friendly and relaxed nature of the area was one of its major selling points”. As we looked through the towns local sports stores we soon realized that outdoor sports were popular among locals and tourists alike, including rafting, biking, and skiing. And no wonder, the town is surrounded by beautiful landscape ripe for exploring. It lies in a valley bordered by mountain ranges on both sides. The landscape beyond the small town is dominated by hues of blue and green. We saw little of local wildlife in our short visit, only one ground squirrel, but we did see several construction sites and parks designed for public use. In summary, while it is clear the small town of Jackson Hole has fostered a strong tourist-oriented economy at the expense of its local culture, we still enjoyed our time in town and we look forward to comparing this town with the others we will visit later in the week.

Place as Text: Jackson, WY (Photos)

Pre-Departure Post

The anticipation for Yellowstone has increased each day! I look forward to making new friends and experiences at the National Park.  The experience I can only imagine will be truly incredible.  I am looking forward especially for interacting with the culture and natural beauty of the park.  The wildlife, I am sure will be nothing that I could ever compare to.  I have never experienced this northwestern section of the United States and am thankful to have this opportunity.  This is a great opportunity to learn more about myself and the Earth. Pack 11 will be a great group! I look forward to interacting with my group members, Marc Bein and James Clayton, and sharing our contributions. Together we can efficiently address the issues regarding Grizzly bears in Yellowstone.  I cannot wait to see everyone in Wyoming!

– Walter Culbertson

Pre-Departure Post

So far so good. I’m scheduled to fly out and arrive this Sunday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I spent the last two weeks wrapping up exams and attending pre-departure meetings for the Yellowstone trip, where I got to meet both of the other team members in my pack; James Clayton (bio major) and Walter Culbertson (history major). Both seem friendly and I expect we will collaborate well together. We’ve been assigned to research some info on the bear population in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) before we arrive. Our research will help guide discussion concerning bears during the trip.

I look forward to making the trip out west. I’ve been as far west as Arizona and as far north as New York, but I’ve never made a trip to the northwestern United States. I honestly don’t know what to expect, but I suppose that’s half the fun. I’m most interested in the beautiful landscapes and wildlife I’ve seen in so many pictures taken in the area. I’m also interested to explore the rich culture the area’s, so different from our own; the music, the customs, the day-to-day living. Not too long now. We’ll be sure to keep you posted as our adventure unfolds.

– Marc Bein

Pre-Departure Post

Less than a week left until the big day that I depart for Jackson Hole and I couldn’t be more eager. The pre-departure meetings went well and were exceptionally informative and I had a great opportunity to meet my pack mates. My group consists of myself, Marc Bein and Walter Culbertson. I can tell Marc is going to be an excellent group member because we discussed our attributes and he described his ability to complete work on time in a professional manner. I feel with our combined efforts we can do a great job thoroughly researching our issue. I intend to work efficiently and cohesively with my pack to address important issues concerning Grizzly Bears in Yellowstone and interpret all the perspectives. I’m excited to learn about Bears as well as much more and most of all experience this incredible place for myself!

– Tyler Clayton