Lab Staff

Bob Crabtree

Founder, President, Chief Scientist

There is probably nothing renown ecologist, YERC founder and Chief Scientist, Robert (Bob) Crabtree loves to discuss more than nature stories in Yellowstone ever since his mother brought him here when he was 10.  He is a field ecologist at heart and was fascinated with the outdoors, especially birds, at a very young age. He worked with graduate students on great-horned owls and mule deer in high school and published his first scientific paper as an undergraduate based on his fieldwork investigating the competitive interactions between two species of flycatchers in the North Cascades. Due to lack of funding on bird communities, he studied mammalian predation on waterfowl nests for his MS degree (Utah State) and was then hired by the Department of Energy (Battelle Northwest Labs) at the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve in Washington to document—for the first time—coyote population and social ecology in the absence of human (killing) exploitation (PhD, UIdaho).  After a post-doc at UC-Berkeley, he was awarded two research grants in Yellowstone National Park: (1) building a social-structured population model for gray wolves as part of the initial EIS process, and (2) initiated the 20 year Canid Ecology Project (CEP).  Bob knew the incredible value of long-term, large-scale studies in ecosystems and forged collaborative partnerships to increase the role of science at the decision-making table and bridge the gap between scientists and practitioners.

Bob’s interests grew in space, time, and level of biological organization (genes, species, communities) as he initiated dozens of interrelated projects in and beyond the Yellowstone Ecosystem. This also led to expansion into remote sensing applications in ecology to provide scientists and decisions makers access to landscape scale evaluations, ecosystem assessments, and important variables to understand and predict change in species populations from climate and human impacts. He also began parallel studies to understand the long-term effects of the wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone and has taken full advantage of similar natural and policy experiments such as land-use activities, fire, floods, drought, invasive spread, and extreme weather events—all with a synoptic ‘systems’ approach.

This led to his interest in predictive modeling of species populations and ecological forecasting of plant and animal communities. He know that deep investigations into species provided the gateway to understanding the mechanics of ecosystem function. It also started a career track as a landscape ecologist where remote sensing technologies—fusion and data assimilation modeling—were employed to understand the cause and consequence of species populations responding to habitat and climate change. He continues to strive to translate the results of YERC’s research into informed decision-making and on-the- ground conservation action. He mentors graduate students and post-docs as a Research Professor at the University of Montana and Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria.

Lab Staff

Melissa Todd

Office Administrator

Melissa is the person who balances the budget, administers the finances, and keeps YERC's business operations running so the scientists can do their jobs.

Juggling the complex needs of a non-profit, which always includes resolving the occasional minor emergency, is nothing new for Melissa. She previously worked for a travelling theater company and for Bozeman's Intermountain Opera. And having always been interested in water issues affecting the West—she majored in geography at Montana State University with a minor in water resources—YERC's Adaptive Ecology mission is a particularly good fit for our office administrator.

Still, Melissa continues to draw on experience working with these performing arts non- profits. Coordinating travel plans for world-class opera singers, for example, can be a lot like welcoming new field technicians coming out for a summer of field work, while managing equipment necessary for data collection is similar to managing that for a stage production. Melissa recalled a time helping sort the spotting scopes, the bear spray, the forestry surveying tools that the crew would need for an upcoming project.

"I was looking at all this stuff and thought, 'oh props, just like the opera: do we need a goblet or do we need a gauntlet?'" she said.

Melissa also continues to be a part of Bozeman's art scene. She and around 30 other women form a percussion ensemble, "Chicks with Sticks," that is a fixture at local festivities—"We marched in the Sweet Pea Parade last week," she said, "and since the theme was the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, we wore ranger hats."—while she and her husband, Clive, are sure to be at any concerts and music festivals in the region from the opening act to the final encore.

Lab Staff

Patrick Cross

Ecologist

Patrick first worked for YERC in 2008 as one of the last field techs on the 20-year Canid Ecology Project. That is when he found out about Bob Crabtree's interest in Yellowstone's mountain fox population and YERC's work with graduate students to learn more about these animals. When his seasonal position on the "coyote crew" ended, Patrick went on to other research jobs in the Park as well as working as a newspaper reporter for a rural community on the edge of the ecosystem. But all the while Patrick kept in touch with Bob, emailing him every time he saw a fox or visited Yellowstone's high country, always asking if any progress was being made towards reopening the fox research program. After sending a photo of a fox displaying the characteristic blond guard hairs and charcoal underfur of the alpine population, Patrick received a phone call. It was Bob, saying that a graduate position was available. And with that, Patrick closed his reporter's notebook and reopened his field notes. After two rigorous winters on the Beartooth Plateau that made even graduate level coursework easy by comparison—trapping and tracking foxes as well as running a remote, mountaintop field camp over 20 miles by ski or snowmobile from the nearest town—Patrick received his master's degree in systems ecology from the University of Montana in 2015. Since then, he has continued working as an ecologist at YERC's Bozeman office. And though he misses life on the Beartooth Plateau, he admits that the commute by bicycle in Bozeman is a lot easier.

Lab Staff

Steven Jay

Lab Manager/Geospatial Scientist

Steven moved to Montana from western Colorado in 2003 to study Land Resource Sciences at Montana State University. It was during his studies that he developed a passion for remote sensing and spatial analysis. After earning his Master's degree in Land Resources and Environmental Science from Montana State, he returned to his native Colorado to perform field validation of high altitude wetland complexes in the Colorado Rockies for the National Forest Service. From Colorado he briefly moved to far northern California to manage the GIS division of an environmental consulting firm. Unable to cope with the high temperatures of the Central Valley, Steve was hired at YERC as a remote sensing and GIS analyst in 2012. Since starting at YERC, Steve has been instrumental in developing advanced models using satellite and aerial imagery for most of North America as well as researching improved methods of disseminating spatial data and providing environmental variables for wildlife habitat modelling. After several years of challenging fieldwork in Montana and Colorado, he has grown to appreciate the perks of working in an air conditioned office.

Lab Staff

Art McKee

Grant Writing

Art's goal as a research scientist—along with understanding interactions between terrestrial and aquatic communities, visualizing landscape-scale patterns of biodiversity, and answering other questions of systems ecology—has been to improve natural resource managment. In his over 50-year career that started in 1965 at the U.S. Army's Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, he has accomplished this by working in cooperation with state and federal agencies, university research programs, and non- governmental organizations on projects ranging from the Appalachian Mountains to Alaska's North Slope and beyond. And though Art, an avid skier, has now settled in northwestern Montana to be closer to the mountains on his free time, he continues to work as director emeritus of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest—itself a collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon State University—and as a research scientist with the University of Montana's Flathead Lake Biological Station. He also works with YERC on grant writing and project managment.

One can read between the lines on a CV with a long list of successful projects, like Art's, and recognize the work that went into those research proposals as well as the unmentioned proposals that went unfunded. Bringing this experience to YERC, Art is able to view our proposals not only with the eyes of a scientists, but also with those of a grant administrator, selection committee, or review panel. This helps us craft proposals that are appealing on all levels.

Lab Staff

Matt Holloran

Ecologist

When national policies, like domestic energy production and landscape conservation, have local impacts, whether economic or environmental, Adaptive Ecologists are needed to resolve subsequent conflicts. One issue making headlines across the West today is the conflict between natural gas development and conservation of the threatened sage grouse. Fortunately, our affiliate Matt Holoran in Fort Collins, CO, got his PhD from the University of Wyoming studying this topic, giving YERC a way to collaborate on an important issue outside of our namesake national park.

As the principal of Operational Conservation, LLC, and chief scientist of the non-profit Wildlife Management Research Support, Matt has specialized in long-term research on sagebrush-obligate species, like the sage grouse, with a focus on understanding anthropogenic effects on populations, especially the effects of energy development. The culmination of 20 years of research in the field, Matt is currently working with YERC and others to develop a dynamic approach to science-based management of sagebrush and grassland communities, that is, when he isn't spending time boating and hunting or gardening with his wife and two daughters.

Working with affiliates like Matt allows YERC to tap into a diverse talent pool not just here in the GYE but anywhere around the world, while it also extends our reach to issues beyond Yellowstone.

Students & Techs

Luis Mayberry

Harvard University
Environmental Sciences & Public Policy

Students & Techs

Jaimie Choi

University of California - San Diego
Environmental Services

Students & Techs

Riley Hunt

Montana State University - Work Study

Students & Techs

Andrew Pflagger

Montana State University - Work Study

Affiliate Staff

Robert "Trapper" Haynam

Graduate Student

Trapper has one thing in common with the greater sage-grouse that he studies: both have trouble with sage cover. For the sage-grouse, declines in its namesake habitat—often related to development of energy, agriculture, transportation and/or residential infrastructure—are one reason why the chicken-sized bird is threatened and considered for U.S. Endangered Species Act protection. For Trapper, trying to record fine details in the sage brush over a wide swath of the Wyoming landscape with the accuracy and precision needed for good, defensible analysis has been a major challenge in his study of the bird and its habitat. As a graduate student in the University of Montana's Systems Ecology program, Trapper has learned about complex statistical models predicting a species' survival and resource selection as well as the high tech remote sensing methods needed to record environmental details on a grand scale. He's also applied these tools in his thesis research, asking how habitat characteristics influence not only whether a sage-grouse will be at a given site, but how well it will survive once it is there. His goal is to map the landscape from the ground-dwelling sage-grouse's perspective: a different take on the usual "bird's eye view," but one with tremendous potential for conserving the species and managing responsible development. With his background in wildlife telemetry, bachelor of science degrees in both Environmental Geology and in Ecology and Organismal Biology from the University of Montana, and collaboration with Craighead Beringia South using sage-grouse data from a three-year study, analyzing the movements of these elusive birds has been easier than observing the common sage brush, at least from the sage-grouse's discriminating eye. But his commitment to doing his best work on the best data available, his dogged persistence in finding solid solutions to the challenges facing these complicated analyses, and his dedication to the conservation of this species and its landscape, are just some of the qualities that make Trapper a good Adaptive Ecologist.

Affiliate Staff

Beau Fredlund & KT Miller

Media Team

YERC's media team, Beau Fredlund and Kt Miller, combine talented story-telling, a curiosity for ecology and its future, and a passion for exploration and backcountry adventure. Based in Cooke City, Montana—also home to YERC's field station—these photographers, videographers, guides and educators help translate our message into accessible and aesthetic formats. Beau's "Beartooth Fox Project" video, the product of three days working with and filming YERC's research on a fascinating alpine species, exemplifies the kind of informative, engaging communication needed in Adaptive Ecology. The owner/operator of Yellowstone Ski Tours, his own backcountry skiing photo diary, The Cooke City Chronicle, inspired viewers worldwide with over 300,000 views in just four years, while other photos and articles have appeared in print and online in Backcountry, Powder, and the Montana Pioneer among others. Kt recently garnered acclaim for her film, "Shifting Ice + Changing Tides," documenting an all-female team's sail- and ski-powered expedition from Iceland to Greenland to investigate the impacts of climate change on polar communities—both ecological and of people—while skiing previously unexplored powder. It won numerous awards including the Best Environmental Message award at the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival. Working for Polar Bears International as its media specialist steeled Kt to capturing imagery in extreme environments while she gained the skill of translating scientific messages necessary for telling YERC's stories. Together, their three-part "Backyard Roots" video series likewise exemplifies a talent for blending stunning imagery with effective communication, this time conveying messages of safety, respect, and appreciation for the backcountry to those who love exploring it. We are excited to work with Beau and Kt as well as be a part of their own exciting careers: http://www.yellowstoneskitours.com http://www.ktmiller.photo

Affiliate Staff

Alan Swanson

Statistician

Alan Swanson is a quantitative ecologist who has been working with YERC both full time and part-time for 8 years. He has two MS degrees, one in Statistics from Montana State University and one in Ecology from University of Montana. He currently consults on a variety of projects including modeling high-resolution climate parameters, remote sensing of vegetation, Monte Carlo simulation models, spatio-temporal analysis of long-term ecological data, invasive spread modeling, and ecological forecasting. Among his many talents are extreme backcountry skiing, competitive biking, and an incredible zest of almost any outdoor challenge.

Affiliate Staff

Amy Trowbridge

Biologist

Amy joined YERC after first coming to Montana work as an assistant teaching professor and in curriculum development at Montana State University. Her work epitomizes systems ecology, bringing a multidisciplinary approach to understanding interactions between large scale processes—like global climate change and atmospheric greenhouse gas production—and small scale responses—like the relationships between plants and their insect pests. Her work has contributed to dozens of peer-reviewed publications, presentations, and book chapters on topics ranging from the consequences of drought for a plant's ability to produce its own natural pesticides to the effect of atmospheric composition on a forest's production of chemical compounds.

Affiliate Staff

Dave Brooks

Maintenance Engineer

At the top of his professional career maintaining automobile manufacturing plants, hospitals, data centers, and universities, engineer David Brooks found himself maintaining the motley collection of cabins and trailers that have served as YERC's field station. On retiring from Facilities and Operations at the University of Michigan, Dave wanted to come out to Yellowstone and work on citizen science projects, so in YERC he found a way to satisfy his interests in ecology as well as apply his skills in engineering.

In addition to regular visits to Cooke for alternating field station maintenance, volunteering with ongoing research, and catching up with friends in town and in the Park, David and his wife, Sharon, also lived at the field station for a summer in 2007 to be "host parents" for over a dozen undergraduate and graduate researchers there.

"Having a cow moose and hr calf bed down on our front lawn, a grizzly bear visit the deck, and helping the fieldwork continue smoothly made for a wonderful summer," David said.

While David still tries to come out with his tools about three times a year, his attention has been drawn to a new passion of late: Nancy K. After retrofitting the retired 55' steel Great Lakes gillnetter fishing boat, David has captained the "floating field station" for a variety of citizen science and academic research projects through Earthwatch.

"The Nancy K sharpened my steel cutting, welding and painting skills while we sampled for microplastics, deployed ROVs, and looked for wrecks with side scan sonar," David said.

But we can always find another maintenance project to wrench on or field project to volunteer with whenever David finds the time to come back.

Affiliate Staff

Devin Roberts

Graduate Student

With an interest in behavioral ecology and how different species interact, Devin Roberts found a treasure trove of data for his graduate research in YERC's Canid Ecology Project. A master's student at the University of Victoria in Canada, Devin is digging through 20 years worth of coyote and wolf radio telemetry relocations and hand drawn maps of observed coyote movement and behavior to model the coyote's response to its larger competitor. Last summer, he was also able to spend several weeks in Yellowstone getting to know the study area beyond spreadsheets of data. His is a perfect example of the opportunities available to prospective graduate students who want to take advantage of invaluable YERC data like this.

Affiliate Staff

Katie Gibson

Programmer

Katie Gibson works as a software developer in Bozeman, Montana. She has degrees in electrical engineering (BS) and computer science (MS). Katie spent 15 years working for Hewlett-Packard, initially as a hardware engineer, later as a software engineer, and finally as an supervisory system & automation engineer. Since leaving HP in 1999, Katie has consulted in computer science (with projects ranging from mobile apps to cloud computing) for companies across the USA. When she's not pounding the keys, Kate enjoys hiking, telemark skiing, biking, and reading.

Affiliate Staff

Keith Van Etten

Cooke City Liaison

Keith first came out to Yellowstone back in 2000 to work on YERC's coyote crew and live at our field station out of Cooke City, Montana. He has been a part of the local community there ever since.

He continued working as a field tech on the coyote crew for several more seasons before taking on a complementary coyote-fox interaction study for YERC and for his master's degree at Colorado State University. Other projects on other species like marten and wolverines have taken Keith elsewhere across the West, but he always came back to Yellowstone. Over that time, he further explored the mountains around Cooke City with his dog, Sawyer, built strong connections and friendships in Cooke, and eventually met his wife, Andrea. He also continued working with YERC, assisting field research and providing both regular maintenance as well as emergency house calls on our field station there. And while having a solid hand that we can call on certainly is valuable for YERC, perhaps the best part of having Keith and Andrea on our team is having friends and respected representatives inside the Cooke City community.

Affiliate Staff

Scott Bishcke

Writer and Engineer

Scott Bischke is a BS, MS chemical engineer who served as YERC's lab manager, which including acting as our lead proposal writer, for many years. Scott worked previously as an engineering researcher at three national laboratories: the National Bureau of Standards (now National Institute of Science & Technology), Sandia, and Los Alamos. Additionally, he worked for ~11 years as lead environmental engineer for the wafer fabrication and plating areas of Hewlett-Packard's Corvallis Inkjet Business Unit. Scott has authored or co-authored numerous technical papers, and two EISs. He has been lead author on successful scientific and engineering proposals totaling multiple-millions of dollars. Scott has edited proposals, book chapters, and technical papers, plus published four popular press books and many popular press articles. Scott is an accomplished photographer, loves to ski and hike, but willingly admits he lives to fly fish.

Affiliate Staff

Scott Frazier

Indigenous Coordinator

Scott is an affiliate who does more than connect YERC with other researchers and institutions: he helps us connect with other cultures. A member of the Crow Tribe and descendent of the Santee, Scott is YERC's liaison to Montana's seven tribal colleges. He has worked with us on more than seven grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and others, coordinating collaborative research projects, supervising undergraduate interns from each of the colleges, and integrating related course material into tribal college curricula.

While these collaborations exposed YERC to exciting research with talented colleagues, they also benefited Scott's professional career. He continues to provide educational opportunities—teaching cultural diversity from the Indigenous perspective through storytelling, music, dance, and hands-on activites—through his own organization, Project Indigenous, described as "a bridge between Indigenous knowledge and western science."

Like with YERC, Scott's work goes beyond his own tribal homeland—"The Crow Country is a good country: the Great Spirit put it exactly in the right place," as one chief, Eelapuash, said in 1830—to reach different people and cultures around the world in places as far as Ecuador, Russia, and Washington, D.C. Just as we want our work to inspire personal connections to ecosystems here and around the world, Scott is working to inspire connections to native ecosystems and cultures worldwide.

YERC Alumni

Maggi Kraft

GIS Analyst

Working as a Data Analyst with YERC did more than just expand on the skills Maggi learned at Montana State University. Beyond performing geospatial analyses on large datasets, supervising field crews to accurately—and safely—collect data in the wilds of Yellowstone's backcountry, and writing grants to help keep these projects going, Maggi also learned more about her own future and what she wanted to do with it. Exposure to the successes—and challenges—YERC had in the three years she worked here gave Maggi ideas about the oncoming needs of ecology and conservation as well as what she could do about it.

"In my work at YERC I often noted the importance of modeling and programming various scenarios in environmental sciences," Maggi said. "It is an essential tool for management and research."

The ability to harness the power of mathematically complex models and largescale datasets to predict the impacts of climate change, recreation, and growing populations is a vital skill for resource managers, Maggi said.

"Using environmental data and programming, a researcher could create a model demonstrating potential impacts on a water system or estimate the trend of a species," she said.

As a result, one goal in her continuing graduate education has been to gain a better understanding of these impacts and the complex models that can give us the potential to prepare for them. Maggi is now beginning her second year as a master's student at Utah State University, studying the landscape scale effects of climate change on ecosystem restoration. The model she is working on takes into consideration both ecological and economic factors to identify in-steam barriers warranting removal to improve aquatic habitats.

"This approach is novel in that it includes economic water use and quality habitat as dual objectives to prioritize barrier removal," she said.

And even though Maggi's career has for now taken her away from YERC and Yellowstone, the personal experiences she acquired here will always stay with her. She recalled one survey of a riparian vegetation plot, "when all of a sudden we heard a deep grunting noise coming from the dense bushes. We ran as fast as we could out of the willows, quickly turning around with bear spray in hand. There was nothing coming at us."

A little while later, Maggi returned with two partners to quickly retrieve the backpacks and equipment left behind in their sudden departure, and then "skipped that plot."

At least there are no bison in Utah's Weber River basin where Maggi is currently working.

YERC Alumni

Dan Weiss

Post-doctoral Researcher

Dan Weiss was a post-doctoral researcher who developed models to estimate the percent of surface water in a MODIS pixels to assist in wetland and migratory bird research. Dan also lead the development of our COASTER data system and was a talented scientist. Dan worked at YERC from 2010-2014 and is currently a geospatial researcher at Oxford University.

YERC Alumni

Jeff Strohm & Melissa Braschel

Field Researcher

The professional experience Jeff gained working for YERC had as much to do with politics as it did with science: the politics of working with carnivores like wolves in the American West, the politics of coordinating with state and federal agencies on transboundary research issues, the politics of life in a small, rural, mountain community.

"A tip for getting on the locals' good side: talk to them about fishing," Jeff suggested after spending a summer with his partner, Melissa, volunteering for YERC in Cooke City, Montana. "Folks who can seem grumpy after too many winters will light up when you ask them about the local waterways."

Learning to flyfish Tenkara style—and coming in second place in a contest with buddies across Canada to see who could catch the greatest diversity of species over the summer—added personal experience to the professional experience Jeff gained that summer.

After finishing their master's degrees at the University of Guelph in Ontario in genomics and statistics, respectively, Jeff and Melissa were looking for more professional experience. They reached out to dozens of groups across North America through the Organization of Biological Field Stations (www.obfs.org), offering to volunteer their skills in exchange for the experience needed to build stronger resumes, and YERC was among the first to jump at this golden opportunity. From the offers they received, Jeff said that they were impressed with the diversity of YERC's research program, its long establishment in Yellowstone and corresponding longterm datasets, and, of course, with the opportunity to experience Yellowstone for themselves.

Jeff and Mel worked both in the field—assessing sapling regeneration following Yellowstone's 1988 wildfires—and on computational projects—modeling where wolf packs might colonize outside of the Rockies and how local herd animals might react. This gave them on-the- ground skills and exposure to science in action, which included seeing "the value of maintaining long term datasets, like those collected and curated by YERC," Jeff said. But the personal experience was just as valuable.

"Most people never get to spend this much time in the park," Jeff said, describing the wonder of the changing seasons and how they affect "the ungulate herds, wolf packs and wildflowers," telling of a time when he and Mel watched a pack of wolves feeding on a bison carcass until grizzly bears showed up, "having awkward stand offs with the wolves as they feasted."

This summer, Jeff and Mel are back in Canada—Jeff is doing bioinformatics with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Mel started a new job at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence doing statistics for HIV/AIDS research—but our door is always open for when they come back to Yellowstone.

YERC Alumni

Jake Kay

Field Assistant

Jake's work on the Beartooth Fox Project began with packing everything he would need for the winter onto a sled, followed by a 10 mile snowmobile ride to the snowbound camper trailer that would be home for the coming months. Fortunately, with a wildlife biology degree from Colorado State University and multiple seasons trapping and tracking mountain lions out of Jackson, Wyoming, as well as exploring its landscape on his snowboard, Jake came well prepared for this line of work. Avalanches blocking the road, late night catch-and-release fox handling, shoveling snow off the flat roof of the camper as fast as it could pile up, snowmobile breakdowns while trying to outrace an oncoming blizzard: all part of the job for a field tech on the fox project. Soon after returning to civilization, Jake found a graduate opportunity at New Mexico State University, researching mountain lion-mule deer interactions through its Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Now Jake is running his own field research project, studying a fascinating carnivore all while pursuing a master's degree: we couldn't think of anyone better suited for the task.

YERC Alumni

Steve and Molly Attel

Volunteers

The packed-down grassy patch surrounded by sagebrush seemed a long way from the operating rooms Molly Attell was used to working in.

Yet the surgical nurse—with "35 years in the operating room" including more than a dozen years as a clinical educator—had a passion for wild canines since she was little, and in spite of a nursing career that takes her around the world to places like Vietnam, Micronesia, Ecuador and most recently Nepal, she has found time to observe, understand, and advocate for the wild animals she is most interested in. So as a volunteer helping a YERC field crew process a live coyote captured for the Canid Ecology Project, Molly was amazed with just how much that real world experience mattered in this real life research situation.

"I thought, 'Wow, my skills as a nurse come in real handy,'" she said, describing the care for the pup and the sterile equipment. "Who knew my skills as an OR nurse could be helpful in Yellowstone?"

Molly's husband, Steve Attell, likewise brings his diverse background and skill set to YERC's Adaptive Ecology team.

"My goal was to choose a profession I was interested in and had a passion for," he said. "I wanted to make a contribution."

For eleven years, that contribution was as a Marine aviator, including a thirteen month combat tour in Vietnam. He then pursued architecture and design—"a challenging profession, but a lot of fun"—eventually following a career mentor to specialize in managing large construction projects from start to finish: B1 bomber and stealth aircraft facilities at desert airbases, clean rooms in Silicon Valley research labs, and eventually Stanford University where he oversaw the campus' infrastructure growth for more than twelve years. In spite of that busy career, like—and indeed with—Molly, Steve has become a valuable part of the YERC team, which has in itself proven to be his own gateway into Yellowstone and his personal connection to ecology.

. "In my lifetime, some of the most meaningful experiences I've had have been in the field of biology," he said, "and I'm not a biologist."

Carl Sagan said, "every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist." But Sagan went on to say, "and then we beat it out of them." Molly and Steve are proof that this does not have to be true: by reaching out to us, finding creative ways to apply their skills and talents to our needs, and following their passions for understanding and adventure even when it took them out of their usual professional box, Molly and Steve were able to make Yellowstone and YERC an important part of their lives as well as have a beneficial impact on our research.

So just how exactly did this surgical nurse and architect end up helping coyote researchers in Yellowstone? Molly described hearing YERC founder, Bob Crabtree, speak at an event in Yellowstone in the late 1990s, and how she approached him in the parking lot after the event.

. "I am kind of shy and usually wouldn't do that sort of thing," she said, but she wanted to tell Bob about her own ideas and experiences with coyotes, her willingness to volunteer in the field and experience the research for herself, her passion for the animals and their ecology and the landscape...

"'You just said the magic word,'" Bob told her. What? she asked. "Passion... would you like to come out this winter?"

YERC Alumni

Cheyenne Burnett

Field Technician

Then: Canid Ecology Project (2009)
Now: Brucellosis GIS specialist, Wyoming Game and Fish Department

YERC Alumni

Amy Seaman

Field Technician

Then: Canid Ecology Project (2008)
Now: Associate Director of Conservation, Montana Audubon

YERC Alumni

Junfeng Lu

Statistician

Then: Ecological Statistician (2011)
Now: Post-Doctoral Associate, Université du Québec à Rimouski

YERC Alumni

Kevin Li

Field Technician

Then: Canid Ecology Project (2008)
Now: Research Assistant, North Carolina State University

YERC Alumni

Kezia Manlove

Programmer

Then: Programmer (2011)
Now: PhD Candidate, Penn State; Wildlife Disease Ecologist, WSU/USDA/USGS

YERC Alumni

Nikki Parker

Field Technician

Then: Beartooth Fox Project (2013)
Now: University of Montana

YERC Alumni

Shengli Huang

Remote Sensing Specialist

Then: Remote Sensing Specialist (2011)
Now: Senior Remote Sensing Analyst, U.S. Forest Service

YERC Alumni

Ellen Beller

Field Technician

Then: Beartooth Fox Project (2012)
Now: PhD Student, Michigan Tech

YERC Alumni

Rachel Meyer

Field Technician

Then: Post-Fire Forest Regeneration Study (2013)
Now: Timber Stand Improvement/Reforestation Crew, U.S. Forest Service