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Opening the Doors for Collaboration

 

Since opening the doors of the Enrico Education & Science Center this spring, lead scientist Kyran Kunkel couldn't be more excited:

"Our goal for 2015 is to develop an inaugural set of projects and partners that helps build the Center as one of the best of its kind in the Great Plains and the West, something on par with the most ambitious conservation project going on today."

And where there's boldness, there's a way.

Kyran has a solid and ambitious vision for the next three years of science work, which includes a better understanding of bison grazing, monitoring and increasing wildlife populations, working with neighbors on incentives for living with wildlife, inspiring young people, and building regional capacity for conservation. It might sound far-fetched until you hear what has been accomplished already this summer.

June marked the arrival of prairie dog restoration ecologists from Defenders of Wildlife and the Humane Society as well as a world-class owl biologist -- all in the same week! The gathering included three founders of American Prairie Reserve, providing an additional opportunity for valuable discussions and mentorship. In just two days, the group expanded the potential of one prairie dog town by 30 percent through vegetation mowing and placing more than two-dozen artificial burrows in the ground. Prairie dogs were spotted checking out the new homes within days. Bird work continued in August with the National Wildlife Federation and Montana Conservation Corps who worked to protect greater sage grouse from fence collisions by flagging wires in the vicinity of leks with reflective material.

Looking ahead, graduate students from Clemson University and the University of Munich are well on their way to designing projects to help build understanding of bison grazing and ways to work with neighbors on joint wildlife goals. Kyran's vision for a collaborative, engaging, and active science program is off and running, and we think it will catch up to pronghorn speed soon enough.