Alpine Field Studies

Course Overview:

The purpose of Northwest Connections courses is to provide university students and interested citizens with opportunities to learn about ecology and environmental studies while collaborating with us on long term ecological monitoring and restoration projects. Participants in our Alpine Field Studies course assist NwC with evaluating whitebark pine forests for the purpose of restoring this keystone species in the Northern Rockies. This course is taught entirely in the back country and utilizes speakers to augment our daily field learning sessions. Students will gain substantial knowledge of the natural history of alpine environments including plant identification, animal sign and bird recognition. Using the vantage point of our high elevation setting, students will study the concept of connectivity between ecological reserves and will focus on the current issue of grizzly bear conservation in the Swan Valley. We will also discuss the role of communities in conservation.


The Alpine Field Studies reader includes readings by Kate Kendall and Steve Arno on whitebark pine communities, readings by Chris Servheen and Rick Mace on grizzly bear conservation in the Swan, readings by Ed Foss and Bud Cheff on the history of the Swan and selections from Reed Noss and John Weaver on conservation biology and the Northern Rockies. Readings from Barb Cestero and Don Snow concerning community collaboration on public lands will also be included.

Course Itinerary:

Day 1 -- 10am Meet @ Swan Ecosystem Center, Swan Valley


Safety Talk/Gear Check

Hike into base camp

Evening Program:

"Leave no trace camping"

Day 2 -- Geography of the Swan Valley

Morning Field Session:  Orienteering/Map and Compass

Afternoon Field Session: Whitebark Pine Stand Inventory

Evening Program:

"The Role of Fire in Western Montana" -- Steve Barrett

Day 3 -- Forest Habitats

Morning Field Session: Tree and shrub I.D.

Afternoon Session: Whitebark Pine Stand Inventory

Evening Program:

"Grizzly Bears in the Swan" -- Tom Parker shares his understanding from 20+ years of observing grizzlies in this area.

Day 4 -- Whitebark Pine Ecology

Morning Session: Habitat Typing

Afternoon Session: Whitebark Pine Stand Inventory

Evening Program: "Issues of Multiple Ownership and affects on wildlife"-- Vernon La Fontaine, FS wildlife biologist in the Swan Valley

Day 5 -- Wildlife Linkages

Morning Session: Animal Track and Sign I.D. 

Afternoon: Whitebark Pine Stand Inventory

Day 6 -- Conservation Biology

Morning Session:  Whitebark Pine Stand Inventory

Afternoon Session:  Read and discuss readings in conservation biology

Day 7 -- Course Conclusion

Morning Session:  Final assignment and course evaluation

Afternoon:  Return to Condon and conclude course.

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