A proposal to study elk migration in the greater Yellowstone area and share information about the animals’ movements has won $100,000 in funding from a new contest aimed at supporting biodiversity studies in the region.
Yale University wildlife ecologist Arthur Middleton and South Dakota wildlife photographer Joe Riis were awarded the first Camp Monaco Prize, according to a statement released by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyo.
The prize, funded by the Center, the University of Wyoming and Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, will help pay for a study of the movements, productivity and conservation of migratory elk in the area around Yellowstone National Park.
In addition to publishing their findings, the project team will launch a public webcam to share live elk migration images at key bottleneck areas, produce a documentary film and create a photography archive in support of science, education and outreach. Researchers said the project will also look at the climatic influences on elk migration and explore the potential for long-term monitoring of ongoing elk migration via remote wilderness cameras.
Middleton recently published the findings of earlier research on pregnancy rates in the Clarks Fork elk herd, near Cody. That study was done with help from the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, the Wyoming Game and Fish and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Though gray wolves prey on elk in the Clarks Fork herd, Middleton and his fellow researchers wanted to learn more about why elk cows in that herd were producing significantly fewer calves than other herds.
Though more research is needed, the data from that study showed that drought probably has a greater effect on poor birth rates than any stress that might be caused by wolves.
Riis has extensively documented in still photos and video the migration of pronghorn antelope in Wyoming, including through the area around Grand Teton National Park.
Middleton and Riis said in their project proposal that they hope to discover new ways of monitoring and safeguarding migratory wildlife in the Yellowstone region and in other important conservation areas across the globe.
The Camp Monaco Prize is named for a hunting camp established just east of Yellowstone Park in 1913 by Prince Albert I of Monaco and William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. That trip resulted in extensive press coverage and discussions of the American wilderness. The Prince’s great, great grandson, Albert II, arrives in Cody on Sept. 18 to mark the centennial of his ancestor’s adventure and to present the first Camp Monaco Prize.
More than 20 proposals were submitted for the 2013 Camp Monaco Prize from organizations, institutions and agencies from around the world.