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Yellowstone thermal regions offer unique home to rare plants

Roy Renkin, a vegetation specialist with the National Park Service, points out sections of a forest in Yellowstone National Park that were the subject of a prescribed burn in 2007 during a 2008 media tour looking back at the summer fires of 1988.

Gift shops in and around Yellowstone National Park are filed with postcards, videos and guidebooks featuring grizzly bears and gray wolves. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a photograph—or even a passing mention—of three much rarer species found only in Yellowstone. Thanks in part to unique microclimates created by the park's hot springs, fumaroles and other thermal features, Yellowstone is the only place on earth where you'll find Ross's bentgrass, Yellowstone sand verbena and Yellowstone sulfur wild buckwheat. But most visitors to the park will never see these obscure plants. Continue Reading →

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Thermal imaging offers high-tech look at disease among Yellowstone wolves

Thermal imaging reveals a bright blue patch near the shoulder of a captive wolf, whose fur was shaved to simulate the effects of sarcoptic mange.

A high-tech method for detecting disease in domestic cattle is helping researchers in Yellowstone National Park learn more about how sarcoptic mange effects gray wolf survival and behavior during the park's long, cold winters. For Paul Cross, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, a moment of insight came when he learned how thermal imaging was used in the cattle industry to detect cows infected with foot-and-mouth disease. The heat-sensitive cameras can pick up on the heat caused by related inflammation in a cow's hoof within a day or two of contracting the disease. Heat-sensing videocameras could help show the metabolic costs of mange in specific wolves, Ross realized. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone science efforts to include greater focus on public opinion

Yellowstone National Park's departing top scientist says his staff has long conducted "world-class" research on animals like gray wolves and grizzly bears, but that there is room for improvement in learning more about public opinion on key issues. David Hallac, who has spent the past three years as division chief of the Yellowstone Center for Resources, said it is important for park managers to continue to work closely with state wildlife experts, and to develop more hard data about public perceptions of wildlife and park policies. Continue Reading →

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Study: Ranger interaction key to bear safety for Yellowstone visitors

Yellowstone National Park managers are looking for ways to more effectively deliver safety messages about watching bears, wolves and other wildlife at roadside traffic jams.

Most visitors to Yellowstone National Park rank the chance to see a grizzly bear at or near the top of their vacation wish lists. But park managers struggle with how to best keep humans and bruins safe when crowds gather to view wildlife along the roadside. When it comes to educating visitors about the risks and rules of watching bears, it turns out the most effective communication method is the one used least often. Visitors who received an oral explanation from a park ranger were "much more likely" to correctly remember safety advice and regulations than those who got information from any other means. Yet that was the method of communication encountered by the fewest respondents. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone among 60 sites proposed for major long-term climate change study

An image from a promotional video by the National Ecological Observatory Network shows what a sample monitoring station might look like. Yellowstone National Park has been selected as one of 60 proposed NEON sites.

A site in Yellowstone National Park has been proposed as one of 60 key monitoring stations in what is shaping up to be the largest long-term study of climate change in North America. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Ecological Observatory Network will gather a wide range of data at sites spread among 20 distinct eco-climatic domains across the United States. The project, budgeted at $60 million for the 2013 fiscal year, is designed to run for 30 years or longer in an effort to help researchers track the long-term effects of climate change across the entire continent. Continue Reading →

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Study: grizzly bears can adapt diet to changing climate

A grizzly bear digs in wet dirt near Cub Creek in Yellowstone Na

For years, many conservationists have worried what grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem will eat as changing climate and habitat conditions bring fewer whitebark pine nuts, cutthroat trout and other prime food sources. A recent study offers an answer: almost anything else. Research by several state and federal wildlife biologists found that grizzlies across the Yellowstone area eat a total of 266 different species of plants and animals, and display an amazingly adaptable diet that ranges from moths to algae. Continue Reading →

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New report offers look at Grand Teton ‘Vital Signs’

A new report offers insight into the "vital signs" of Grand Teton National Park.

A comprehensive report on the status of the natural and cultural resources of Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway is available for public review. The report, "Vital Signs," provides information on the state of key resources that helps guide decisions made for their long-term management. Continue Reading →

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Yellowstone Science Conference looks beyond boundaries for answers

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The 12th Biennial Scientific Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is being held over three days this week at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, centered on a theme of "Crossing Boundaries." But judging from some of the comments during Tuesday's panel discussions and coffee breaks, it seemed like the conference itself had at times crossed a boundary from the world of esoteric hypotheses posed by cautious researchers into a realm of eager discovery and engaged debate by journalists, advocates and members of the general public. Continue Reading →

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‘Geyser Gazers’ patiently wait for Yellowstone eruptions

Self-described 'geyser gazer' Ryan Maurer takes notes after the eruptions of Lion Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone is home to two-thirds of the world’s geysers, attracting visitors from around the world. Most catch Old Faithful and may wander the boardwalks and accidentally witness other eruptions. Some look at the schedule in the visitor’s office listing the times for the six predictable regular geysers, Great Fountain, Grand, Castle, Daisy and Riverside along with Old Faithful, and plan their day in hopes of catching those in action. But a dedicated few devote weeks, and sometimes entire summers, to waiting, watching and recording eruptions. These are geyser gazers and members of the Geyser Observation and Study Association. Continue Reading →

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World’s tallest geyser erupts in Yellowstone

Steamboat Geyser erupts in Yellowstone National Park in 2005. The Norris Geyser Basin feature is the largest active geyser in the world, spewing water more than 300 feet into the air during full eruptions.

Steamboat Geyser, the tallest active geyser in the world, delighted visitors to Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday, spewing steam high into the air in a rare and powerful eruption that lasted several minutes and resulted in ongoing steam and rumbling that persisted until Thursday morning. Full eruptions of Steamboat are rare and unpredictable, and are prized by geyser gazers who wait to witness a rare column of super-heated water that can reach more than 300 feet. Eruptions can last only a few minutes, or as long as 40 minutes, with this week's outburst lasting a reported 15-20 minutes. Continue Reading →

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