Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada is one of the few places where you can get a sense of North America as it was before European settlers arrived. Only five percent of Canada’s native grasslands remain, and they are right here, filled with iconic native animals like wolves, grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, and eagles.
Hike off-trail through rugged parts of the park that tourists never see, past grizzly bears and herds of elk, to help researchers untangle the complex interactions between wolves, elk, and fire. Park managers set controlled fires to keep invasive aspen trees from taking over the native grasslands. Elk eat the aspen shoots that grow after the burns, clearing space for grass to grow. But wolves may be scaring the elk away from their grazing grounds.
To help keep this amazing place intact, park managers need to understand exactly how this food-chain reaction works. Help them by measuring how much vegetation elk are eating and how the controlled fires have shaped the plant populations. Spend one day on the trail of wolves, following their tracks in areas of high wolf activity, such as their meeting sites and travel corridors.
Trips are either 7 days or 13 days in duration, and range from approximately $2100 - $3000 per peson. Costs cover meals, accommodations, transfers, training, and help include a contribution to the financial sustainability of the program.
What to Expect?
The leadership of this national park strives to use natural forces like wolves and wildfires to do the jobs they were meant to do—create a healthy ecosystem. But since humans knocked natural relationships off kilter as they hunted and settled the land hundreds of years ago, we first need to help restore these forces of nature. That’s the goal of this research.
The particular relationships you’re investigating look like this: Invasive aspen trees choke out the native grassland. To protect the grassland, park rangers conduct controlled burns to simulate the effect of naturally occurring wildfire, which culls the aspens and stimulates the growth of new trees. The tender, young aspen shoots lure the elk, which eat them all up and clear space for the grass to grow.
The wildcard? Wolves have recently made a comeback in the park. Researchers think that as a result, elks aren’t mowing down the aspen shoots as expected. Baby aspens draw lots of elk, and elk draw wolves—making the elk skittish and less likely to linger as they eat. Help researchers find out if their hypothesis is correct, and what they can do to foster natural relationships between the forces at play in this wilderness.
In Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, the Rocky Mountains meet the only remaining expanses of intact prairie left in the country. Mountain and grassland plants and animals thrive here, and it’s one of the only places in North America where all off the continent’s native carnivores, including grizzlies, wolves, and wolverines, still thrive. Moose, bison, and bighorn sheep also thrive in the park, along with incredible bird life—trumpeter swans, eagles, and sandhill cranes, among many other species.
From the research station in Waterton Village, a lakefront enclave in the mountains, you’ll be able to take in beautiful views and sunsets. You could also extend your visit to see one of the U.S.’s most famous wild places: Glacier National Park in the state of Montana, which is just across the border.
Teams stay in the Waterton Lakes National Park Research House in Waterton Village, a charming town nestled in the mountains with views of peaks and a beautiful lake. The comfortable house has five bedrooms, each shared by two people, and two bathrooms, along with a kitchen and a laundry room.
You’ll enjoy lots of local, organic food on the expedition, including fresh salmon, bison, and fruits and vegetables. The team will get to plan and prepare meals together and take packed lunches out into the field.
- Program ID: # 2580
- duration: 1 to 2 Weeks
- location: Waterton LakesCanada49° 5' 20.5332" N, 113° 59' 7.2672" WCA
- Fitness level: Light ImpactModerately FitVery Fit
- Closest Airport: Calgary (YYC)
- Costs From: $1500 to $3000Over $3000
- Program Type: Environmental & Wildlife Programs
- Click Here for More Info