Thursday, December 3, 2015

Come to the Science Café!

Tonight at 7, the Berry Center Auditorium is hosting the Biodiversity Center's annual Science Café.

The event starts with refreshments at 7:10, followed by short science presentations at 7:30. Presenters provide a short summary of their current research projects, followed by a Q&A.

Participating programs include the Botany Department, the Department of Zoology and Physiology, WyCEHG, and the Program in Ecology.

Come meet and mingle with UW science students at this exciting and informative event!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Walter Echo Hawk: “The Human Rights Era of American Indian Law”

American history is American Indian history, from Fort Laramie’s popularity among settlers traveling the Oregon Trail to the cherished legend of the Thanksgiving feast.  Often called the “Cowboy State,” Wyoming situates itself both in the myth and the history of the United States’ expansion into the West.  The University of Wyoming has long had institutional and community connections with tribal communities, including collaborative research and educational programs between WyCEHG and the Wind River Reservation tribal community. 

In 2004, the University of Wyoming established the High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI), whose mission is to promote positive and productive relationships between the University of Wyoming and regional American Indian communities. HPAIRI will facilitate and expand on those crucial exchanges. 

In order to underscore the relevance of HPAIRI to tribal sovereignty, an annual High Plains American Indian Research Institute Distinguished Lecture has been established.  On October 19, Walter Echo-Hawk visited UW as HPAIRI’s inaugural distinguished lecturer.  His theme was indigenous rights as human rights.  After giving the audience a detailed timeline of Indian rights in American history, he offered a cogent argument for an affirmative statement of indigenous rights as a vital next step for America. 

Walter Echo-Hawk’s career as an attorney and legal scholar spans four decades, and Echo-Hawk took part in legal milestones such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990) and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments (1994).  His writing includes In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided and In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America & the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 
Echo-Hawk contends that “Indian rights” in American jurisprudence are a mishmash of contradictory precedents, fundamentally contaminated by colonialist definitions of indigenous rights and claims.  He points out that there has never been a Supreme Court precedent or constitutional amendment that would, once and for all, vitiate hundreds of years of history that includes land-grabbing, residential schools, resource theft, widespread corruption, and asymmetric war. 

“Indian law” in the United States still includes and refers to precedents dating from hundreds of years ago – long before self-determination and tribal rights entered the national conversation.  “There’s never been a public discourse about the nature and content of human rights of Native Americans in the same way that questions of slavery and discrimination against black Americans were the subjects of very serious national discourse and soul search.  We have to face our inner demons as to some truth-telling about what happened – what we did to the Indians.” 

The Supreme Court still relies on cases associated with inequality, citing them with approval.  “We are appalled by Supreme Court decisions in the Dred Scott case, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu.  Those cases have all been overruled and rejected as repugnant judicial missteps – but the cases that do the same thing in the very same kind of language pertaining to Indians have never been reversed.  They remain good law that is still relied upon today.” 

Echo-Hawk believes that American Indian history is at a point of transformative change, what he calls a “human rights era” in law and policy.  He believes that American Indians have progressed as far as they can under current US legal precedents, and must aim higher: according to Echo-Hawk, the next step is a constitutional amendment recognizing indigenous rights for American indigenous peoples as fundamental human rights.

Echo-Hawk acknowledges that this is an ambitious undertaking: “It’s a very huge change and it would lead to thinking of Native-American rights as inherent human rights.”  He argues, however, that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides both an impetus and a model for that effort. 

He also argues that seeing Native Americans as colonized people – and American history as colonialist history – would be an important and challenging move forward for the United States as a whole.    

“When we think of genocide, we think of that occurring in distant lands – it’s been with us since day one, but we never think of genocide in our own country.  Many Americans would rise up in anger at the very idea that our nation committed genocide against indigenous peoples – but if you apply the definition of genocide from the 1948 UN genocide convention, most observers would conclude that acts of genocide did in fact take place.” 

Echo-Hawk sees universities as sharing an important role in this reconciliation process.  Universities are focal points for research and public debate, as well as sites for collaboration, intellectual exchange, and community outreach.  Through cooperative efforts like WyCEHG’s work with the Wind River Reservation community and HPAIRI, the University of Wyoming can assist in this important process. 

After Echo-Hawk’s address, I spoke with Judith Antell, Director Emerita of the American Indian Studies Program at UW; and Torivio Fodder, a postdoctoral researcher in the American Indian Studies Department.  Judith is director of HPAIRI, and both have been instrumental in the creation of HPAIRI.  They were very pleased to welcome Walter Echo-Hawk to UW. 

As Judith explained, “We brought Walter here because his work really dovetails with the thinking behind the creation of HPAIRI.  We hope to foster goodwill and help the university develop its relationships with tribes in the region, supporting indigenous sovereignty in the process.”

HPAIRI also arranged a lunch for Echo-Hawk and UW students.   Torivio pointed out that face-to-face interactions are valuable: “Students can see that this is a human being, a man who has kids of his own.  It really humanizes this scholarly mystery that a lot of people have, how do you become a Ph.D., how do you write articles.” 

Torivio spoke to HPAIRI’s importance from his perspective as a researcher: “We refer to exploitative research practices as ‘extractive research,’” taking without offering anything in return.  “We’re learning how to treat contributions from American Indian tribal communities with respect, to give that information back to the communities.  We’re in the business of building relationships, trust, and mutual respect.” 

Posted to the EPSCoR blog by Jess White

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Snow Pillows and Snow Plates

In 1949, a record-breaking blizzard swept across Wyoming and surrounding states. Snowbanks rose as high as farmhouse roofs, and roads across all three states were blocked for weeks. One survivor described a “tsunami” of snow sweeping across the prairie, and a farmer recalled digging a pig out of a snowbank three months later. (The pig was alive.) The “Blizzard of ‘49” was one of the most intense snowstorms to hit the Intermountain West.

The official record for blizzard snowfall? Twelve inches. Back then, meteorologists used instruments similar to yardsticks to measure snowfall, and strong winds made it difficult to measure snow accurately.

Snow plate after installation
(image credit: Elizabeth Traver)
This fall, researchers installed new equipment to measure snowfall in Wyoming’s Snowy Range, in areas of the mountain where there was no snow measuring equipment. Elizabeth Traver, manager of the Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics’ (WyCEHG) Surface and Subsurface Hydrology Lab (SSHL), explained how this new snow measuring equipment would work.
New equipment, which was purchased by WyCEHG through a 5-year grant from the National Science Foundation, consists of lightweight aluminum plates measuring over two meters on each side. Connected to pressure sensors that measure the weight of the snow on the plate, these “snow plates” are sensors that can track snowfall over a given area.
Air and snow temperature sensors
and solar power source
(image credit: Elizabeth Traver)
The plates are an improvement over an earlier method, which used “snow pillows.” Snow pillows are like big water mattresses, about three meters square. They’re filled with biodegradable anti-freeze (the same chemical used to make some brands of ice cream, non-toxic to humans and animals), and connected to similar pressure sensors. The antifreeze cushion helps distribute weight evenly over the pillow’s surface.

The snow plates are much easier to carry and set up – Traver said that she and other researchers would carry folded snow plates “two at a time” up the trail. They’re also less fragile, and require less maintenance. In addition, since no chemicals are needed, this method of testing can be seen as more environmentally safe.

Each location is also equipped with a snow depth sensor, an air temperature probe, and five snow temperature sensors. These sensors are placed fifteen centimeters above the ground and then every thirty after that, so they can take the temperature of the snowpack as a whole, allowing researchers to monitor environmental conditions and predict melting patters. Hydrologists and meteorologists can use the data from the snow plates to predict weather and water flow over time.

The plates are connected to a satellite uplink, and will generate real-time data that can be accessed via web. Because the areas where studies occur are remote, the plates are powered by solar panels. As Traver explained, “The idea is that they will require minimal maintenance. ”

I asked Traver about other maintenance concerns and she said, “Well, you might be interested to know that when I first set up these systems, one of them crashed. So when I went to the field, I found that a bear had destroyed the battery, just ripped it apart. Left some nice paw prints on the snow plate.”

Despite the hazards or difficulties of research in remote places, WyCEHG’s new approach to measuring snow will hopefully help managers and others working to understand Wyoming’s water resources and mountain weather patterns.
Closeup of snow plate surface with bear pawprints
(image credit: Elizabeth Traver)
Posted to the University of Wyoming EPSCoR blog by Jess White.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Documentary Screening: Storm of the Century: The Blizzard of '49

On Wednesday, November 17th, Wyoming PBS is offering a free screening of a documentary, Storm of the Century: The Blizzard of '49.  The screening will take place at Laramie County Community College, at LCCC's Training Center and will be followed by a panel discussion featuring the producer Tom Manning, Jim Ehrenberger, and James Fuller.

The blizzard of 1949 was one of the worst in Wyoming history, killing 12 people in Wyoming and 76 in the Intermountain West.  Farmers were particularly hard-hit by the storm, which rushed in from the northwest and dropped temperatures over forty degrees in a matter of a few hours.  One witness, Dan Corbin, recalls seeing a storm like a "tsunami."

Ranchers despaired of herding livestock in whiteout conditions and took refuge inside.  The next day, winds gusting up to 80 mph created drifts as high as thirty feet.  Archive photographs show relief workers tunneling through mountains of hard-packed snow as steep and crystalline as salt caves.

According to Rebecca Hein at, the storm raged for three days, but blizzard recuperation lasted into the early spring.  The U.S. Air Force helped with Operation Hayride (better known as Operation Haylift), transporting hay to Wyoming farms.  The Wyoming Game and Fish Department staged a parallel food drive for local wildlife, delivering hay, cottonseed cake, and alfalfa pellets to deer, elk, and antelope.  Game birds were fed corn and small grain.

The documentary project is sponsored in part by a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund - a program of the Department of State Parks and cultural Resources; with partial funding by the Wyoming Humanities Council; and with additional funding from Pacificorp, the Wheeler Family Foundation, Rose Brothers Inc. of Lingle, and the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation.

Learn more about the blizzard here and read an eyewitness account here.

Posted by Jess White on November 6, 2015.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Metadata: Continuing the Conversation

Shannon Albeke got into data mapping because of fish. “I worked at the Colorado Division of Wildlife for eight years prior to getting my Ph.D. It started back in 1999. We had lots and lots of information on these little fishes of Colorado. The only way you analyze all that data was to create a database and some tools for searching within it. It turned out I had an aptitude for it, and things just went from there. Now I’m an informaticist.” Albeke creates online archives that are open, accessible, and easy to navigate.
Shannon Albeke

In a way, Albeke is a victim of the internet’s success – by now, we’re so familiar with search engines like Google that we don’t think about the planning and management that makes an algorithm such an indispensable tool. Albeke isn’t just a strong advocate for data sharing – he and his team promote good metadata habits. “Metadata” refers to data about data, like labels on files or tags on blog posts. Just like a phone book, metadata allows a search engine to reach individual datasets in a gigantic archive. When metadata is sloppy or incomplete, data is effectively “unlisted.”

What are the benefits of the “open-data” method? (And why should researchers cultivate good data habits?) Data sharing cuts down on redundancy, or experiments that are needlessly repetitive. This means that scientists waste less time and use resources more effectively. It can be hard for scientists to raise funds for large-scale studies, and using available data can make research much more efficient.

This is especially important for student researchers as Albeke explains, “One student wants to use software to process gut microbes and use their DNA to explore the fauna living in your belly. Before, she could read an article about gut fauna. But now, she can also look at the data those researchers used. She can use the same tools to ask a different question of the same dataset. Could she have done that ten years ago? Absolutely not.”

Data sharing also allows researchers working in the same study area to answer broader, more complex questions by working across disciplines. For example, an ecologist collecting data on snowfall could partner with an entomologist examining bark beetle populations in the same forest. By sharing information, these researchers might be able to better answer questions about how precipitation and weather might impact beetle outbreaks.

Albeke’s team is planning visual maps of a study area, with data sets linked to a particular location. For example, several sets of data could be grouped together as part of a “clickable” multimedia map of the Snowy Range in the Medicine Bow National Forest. Researchers could look at a geographical map and see data on any number of measurements including water flow in a stream, plant growth in the forest, or weather records like temperature or wind speed. By creating a system that allows for different sets of data to be viewed on a map, researchers can answer questions on many different levels.

One very basic example of a database map.
Image credit: Shannon Albeke

In addition, Albeke is creating data banks that thousands of people can use – as researchers and contributors. According to him, the biggest problem is ‘searchability,’ or making data legible and visible, especially across disciplines. Different fields of research use different words, even in closely-related areas like botany and biology. This means that a scientist who searches for a word related to their research might not see useful data if it’s been collected and stored by a scientist using a different set of terms. Albeke’s solution is to create search engines that can “translate” terms across disciplines. This is called “semantic searching.”

Aside from data availability, another big problem is security. Does “sharing” data mean that it’s available to everyone? Can multiple people “edit” the data, like a Wikipedia entry or group Facebook page? If the data is available on a website linked to email and password information, what if the site is hacked? What about plagiarism? What if someone deletes four years of data by mistake?

All of these questions need to be answered before data sharing can become the norm, and Albeke’s team partners with IT professionals to find ways to maximize security and flexibility.

Some of these solutions can actually add features to the program. For example, a data archive could allow scientists to track ‘visitors’ to their data, and find researchers with similar interests. In this way, people who use the research will be identified just like if one checked a book out of a library. Tracking could also allow users to network with readers and colleagues around the world, and then a data archive can become a forum where scientists can synthesize results and collaborate on questions.

As Albeke and others find ways to manage data, researchers will need to help to make data available and provide additional information so that it can be understood by others. In WyCEHG, researchers are already making data available and working with Albeke and his team to ensure scientific questions consider the big picture and use all available resources to answer complex questions about water to benefit Wyoming and our water managers.

Posted by Jess White on November 5, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Geophysics Article Published in Science Magazine!

Last week, we announced that UW doctoral student James St. Clair is lead author on an article that would be published in Science magazine, a leading scientific journal.  Steve Holbrook, a professor of geology and geophysics; Cliff Riebe, an associate professor of geology and geophysics; and Brad Carr, a research scientist in geology and geophysics, are co-authors of the paper.

You can read the paper, "Geophysical imaging reveals topographic stress control of bedrock weathering," here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

UW Researchers to Publish Geophysics Study in Science

 We at EPSCoR were glad to hear that UW geoscientists will publish research in Science this October 30th.  (Just in time for Halloween!) 

James St. Clair, a UW doctoral student, is lead author of the paper, titled “Geophysical Imaging Reveals Topographic Stress Control of Bedrock Weathering.”  Steve Holbrook, a professor of geology and geophysics; Cliff Riebe, an associate professor of geology and geophysics; and Brad Carr, a research scientist in geology and geophysics, are co-authors of the paper. 
James St. Clair

Geophysical imaging of the subsurface was conducted by UW’s Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG).  Scientists at MIT and the University of Hawaii contributed numerical models of the stress distribution in the subsurface. 

Geophysical imaging uses different tools to create a detailed picture of the composition, shape, and density of subsurface rock strata.  Scientists can use a variety of technologies to take measurements, and then combine those measurements into maps of the mountain surface and interior.  The team performed seismic refraction and electrical resistivity surveys to look at the depth to bedrock at three mountain sites.  These three sites were chosen because they showed variant, or different, regimes of mountain topography and tectonic stress. 

Researchers used geophysical surveys to estimate the volume of open pore space in the subsurface.  This is an indication of how much water the subsurface can hold.  Computer models showing the state of stress at those sites showed striking correlation with open pore space measurements.  This means that scientists may be able to use measurements of the stress in the earth’s crust to see where water can be stored. Stress in the earth’s crust creates fractures in the earth’s subsurface, and those fractures create space to hold water.      

 “We found a remarkable agreement between the predictions of those stress models and the images of the porosity in the subsurface with geophysics at a large scale, at the landscape scale,” Holbrook says.  “It’s the first time anyone’s really looked at this at the landscape scale.” 

St. Clair is excited to be publishing research in Science, a prestigious scientific journal.  He feels lucky to work with such a talented, experienced group of scientists.  He believes that these results may be extremely useful to hydrologists, geomorphologists, and geophysicists. 

Steve Holbrook adds that there is still a lot of work to be done to test this model in different environments.  However, he says, “Now we have a theoretical framework to guide that work, as well as unique geophysical data to suggest that the hypothesis has merit.” 

Written by Jess White

Friday, October 16, 2015

High Plains American Indian Research Institute Event October 19, 2015

This October 19th, the High Plains American Indian Research Institute (HPAIRI) welcomes Walter Echo-Hawk.  Echo-Hawk will give his lecture, "From Self-Determination to the Human Rights Era of Federal Indian Law," at 1:00 pm in the Wyoming Union West Ballroom.  

An attorney since 1973, Echo-Hawk has also served as tribal judge, author, activist and law professor during his distinguished career.  He represents Indian tribes on important issues including treaty rights, water rights, religious freedom, prisoner rights, and repatriation rights.  

Echo-Hawk is the inaugural "Walter R. Echo-Hawk Distinguished Visiting Scholar" at Lewis & Clark Law School for 2015.  He is the author of In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2013); In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided (2010); and Battlefields and Burial Grounds: The Indian Struggle to Protect Ancestral Graves in the United States (1994).  He is a Pawnee Indian with a BA in political science from Oklahoma State University and a JD from the University of New Mexico.

Echo-Hawk's lecture is the first of a two-part program for this Fall.  The second event, "Indigenous RIghts as Human Rights," will be hosted by the Center for Global Studies on November 11, 2015.

For more information, please contact HPAIRI at

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bringing Stakeholders Together to Discuss Water Issues in Wyoming

WyCEHG will host the second statewide Water Interest Group meeting this October 14, 2015.  

This community event is an opportunity for people interested in Wyoming water issues to learn about WyCEHG research, provide directions for future studies, and partner with the WyCEHG research team.  

WyCEHG promotes a multifaceted approach to water awareness.  Community outreach and feedback are crucial to this cooperative effort.  WyCEHG is looking forward to building on the work begun by WyCEHG scientists and Wyoming community leaders during the first Water Interest Group meeting, which took place on October 7, 2013.  

You can find registration details here.  For questions, please contact

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ever wonder whether rock weathers?

When driving along Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie, you may have marveled at one of Wyoming's most colorful natural landmarks: Vedauwoo, a collection of plump pink granite rock hills.  Janet Dewey, a researcher in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, believes that their curious shape results in part from variable rates of chemical weathering of different rocks, and gradual erosion through rainfall, snowmelt, and temperature changes.  As she explains, "The rate at which different rocks weather governs the landscape, topographic expression, and the porosity in the rock."  Vedauwoo is one striking example of a phenomenon that shapes the intermountain west.

Rock varieties in Wyoming, including pink granite on the far left
(photo credit: Janet Dewey)
Since weathering affects the form and density of rocks, it also plays a major role in how water flows and where it is stored.  Weathering can change the chemical composition of rocks, as when weather leaches out elements like calcium.  When rocks and water come in contact, the chemical composition of both can change; this in turn changes the relationship between the two.  For example, if dissolving a portion of the rock changes the acidity of the water, then the rate of chemical weathering can also change.  Weathering and erosion can also include factors like slope and aspect.  One side of the mountain might be steeper, and one side might spend more time in direct sunlight.

Weathering also influences climate.  Weathering of silicate rock is "a pretty big sink" for carbon dioxide.  "Silicate minerals in the rock react with carbonic acid, consume carbon dioxide and produce weathering products that depend on the minerals present," explained Dewey.

Dewey and others on the weathering research team hope to identify what controls rates of weathering and erosion of rocks in the Laramie Range.  "Like many scientific problems, it's a scaling issue.  What we see at the micro scale is not necessarily what we see at the landscape scale."
Glass column reactors
(photo credit: Janet Dewey)

Their study near the Laramie area includes several different techniques.  First is the micro (or very small) scale which includes column experiments to test the weathering of different kinds of rock.  Dewey and her team have build glass column reactors containing three kinds of crushed rock, including the pink granite that is iconic to Vedauwoo.  Water continuously flows through the columns and is allowed to react with the minerals in the rock.  They test the water runoff for traces of elements like calcium, iron, and phosphorus.  You can see a picture of these columns at left.

Another step involves taking samples of rock at different locations and mapping weathering profiles.  Researchers can also look at thinly-sliced rock under a petrographic microscope to analyze the structure, mineralogy, and grain size of the various rock types and how those features might influence weathering.  The group also uses techniques that will help them determine the landscape-scale erosion rates.  These data will be combined with geophysical data to create a multilayered map of the region.

Graph showing different minerals found in column reactor runoff
(image credit: Cassie Nauer)
After this phase, the team increases the "suite," or set of rocks in the water column study.  The researchers are currently testing three types of rock, but will increase to eight types.  They will also test faster rates of water flow, to determine if there is a predictable relationship between flow and rate of chemical weathering.

Graph showing column reactor runoff rates over time
(image credit: Cassie Nauer)

Dewey's motivation to explore weathering comes from an interest in understanding the future and a curiosity about the past.  She says, "From my perspective, one of the biggest issues confronting us in the future is going to be water quantity and quality.  We need to know as much as we can about the relationship between water and the rock it passes through.  Without that understanding it's easy for us to make mistakes."

In considering the past, she added, "If you've ever gone out on the landscape at Veedauwoo and stood there by those rocks, you think: Why do they tower four stories above me and I'm standing on flat weathered rock that seems to be made of the same material?  Why does that beautiful landscape exist - that we take pictures of, and climb on, and love to visit year round?  If we are sitting on one giant granite batholith, why isn't it the same across the landscape?  That's a cool question."

by Jess White 

Monday, September 14, 2015

ICCE Expedition on Dinwoody Glacier

Dinwoody Glacier (photo credit: Kyle Nicholoff)
The word glacier conjures polar ice and Patagonian steppes, so you might be surprised to learn that the largest glacier in the lower forty-eight states is right here in Wyoming, in the Wind River Basin Mountain Range: Gannet Glacier, on the east and north slopes of Gannet Peak.   

The unique composition of glaciers offers infinite opportunities for research, especially in hydrology and earth science.  This summer, Central Wyoming College (CWC) instructor, Jacki Klancher, took student researchers up to Wind River’s Dinwoody Glacier on the second annual Interdisciplinary Climate Change Expedition (ICCE), an eleven-day investigative adventure.  She was accompanied by Wyoming EPSCoR’s own Dr. Sarah Konrad, as well as archaeologist and CWC professor Todd Guenther. 

Outdoor Education students, led by instructor Darren Wells, provided valuable assistance comprised the ICCE Glacier team. They worked on projects both on and off the ice and worked in concert with the entire team to transport all of the equipment up and down the mountain.  As Klancher said, “It’s really a testament to the team’s skills that we all got up there, completed all of our research, gathered all of our data, and got everyone back down to the parking lot without any incident.  That’s got to be a fundamental consideration – how do you keep students safe.” 

One group of students focused on black carbon, dark particulate matter sometimes found on glacial ice.  Black carbon is related to industrial pollution and can increase snow temperature and accelerate snowmelt.  Students collected snow samples to test for the presence of black carbon and establish a baseline level that can be used to compare data from this coming year.  The team also hopes to use isotopic measurements which can allow scientists to trace the black carbon to its source.
ICCE team members on the move
(photo credit: Kyle Nicholoff)
Dinwoody Glacier is a popular backpacking and hiking site, and students wanted to test to see if human waste material had contaminated Dinwoody’s streams and surface waters.  Testing for E.coli on the mountaintop was a challenge, but two archaeology students found a creative solution: a chicken-egg incubator from Ace Hardware, small enough to carry up the mountain and perfect for housing E.coli cultures.  Next year, the team plans to return with laboratory-grade testing equipment, to expand on their research.  Student researchers also collected water and ice samples to test for temperature and acidity, and surveyed aquatic macroinvertebrate populations.

The ICCE team (photo credit: Kyle Nicholoff)
Guenther's archaeology team made several exciting discoveries on the mountaintop, including a buffalo jump at nearly 11,000 feet - the highest documented jump site in the Central Rockies.  The archaeology team also found what appear to be two Paleoindian camp sites just below the glacial moraine, showing that people were living immediately under the ice some eight to ten thousand years ago.  Researchers found what appear to be several stone cairns and a large store of stone tools.  They hope to return next year to continue their investigation of the site, and are excited to learn more about early human life at high altitude.  

The ICCE expedition also created several maps of the terrain.  Geospatial data collection using global positioning systems (GPS) and maps created using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)- is a significant component of the student research.   Students use GPS to translate data into visuals that they can then use to present their research.  In the future, these visual aids will be an essential part of journal articles and conference presentations will be essential; CWC’s students have a strong head start. 

Guenther pointed out that students are already reaping professional rewards: “We are hired by the BLM and other organizations to complete archaeological projects for them, data collection using professional grade GPS units and professional maps created using ArcGIS software– students who come out of this program are trained not only in archaeology but also GIS and that opens a number of doors for them, so they can take advantage of future opportunities.”

(photo credit: Kyle Nicholoff)
Next year, the team hopes to collaborate with UW’s Dr. Paul Johnson on collecting and analyzing surface water samples to test again for E. coli  Team leaders also hope to collect seismic data on the glacier.

Most of the focus, however, will remain on the students: “We hope to keep expanding, both to enhance the quality of the student experience and the quality of our data.”

By Jess White