Landon was born and raised right outside of Yellowstone National Park, in a small rural farming community with strong ties to ranching. More than once on the trip, Landon expressed his shock that there were so many things about Yellowstone National Park that he was just now learning, despite the fact he’d lived next to it his whole life.
Landon’s brother participated in a local Ecology Project International (EPI) Yellowstone Wildlife Ecology course two years previous. “He made it sound fun,” Landon said when asked why he signed up for the EPI course. “I knew it was an opportunity you don’t get to do often. Even though I live here right next to the park, even though I see wolves and coyotes and elk and bison all the time. This gives you a different view of the actual park. You do things that tourists don’t get to, like telemetry and tracking ungulates. We even got to do that hike where other people can’t go and see wolves and coyotes and a golden eagle.”
Being able to learn about his home area alongside the park’s scientists and rangers made a world of difference to Landon, who was able to look at his backyard with a new kind of lens—curiosity, and scientific research and discovery. “I learned so much stuff about the snow. That’s one thing you don’t think about when you’re in the park, the layers of snowpack and what that might mean to animals.”
Landon’s enthusiasm grew as he spent more time learning about the ecology of the park throughout his course, and he shared his excitement openly with his teammates and dove into the research with great questions for Park biologists. When asked about what he was going to do after his course was over, Landon replied he wanted to come back to the park and show his whole family the places he’d hiked to find ungulates, and to share with them his renewed appreciated of their own backyard. One of Landon’s key takeaways from his course in Yellowstone National Park? “I just like the park even more. It grows on me. I want to go out into the park more and learn even more about it now.”
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