BY MIRA SOLDON —
Senior studied at Teton Science School while exploring outdoors
Alberto Kanost, senior, traveled to Jackson, Wyoming over the summer to study at the Teton Science School.
The trip had many objectives, including identifying invertebrates and plants, spending time outdoors, hiking and exploring the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem.
“I wanted to do something big this summer before senior year. Go out and just learn about stuff and be in nature,” Kanost said.
During the first week, students woke up early, hiked and participated in outdoor lessons.
“The first week was a lot of hiking and trying to get acclimated to [being] 6,600 ft above sea level. A lot of people coming from sea level [had trouble] because your lungs have to work harder to get oxygen,” Kanost said.
In the second week, they moved to Yellowstone where they camped, hiked, took notes on their surroundings and had further instruction.
“It’s basically like going to school, but outside,” Kanost said.
Kanost and his peers began a research project in the third week. Three groups collected data on three respective projects: studies on pikas, Lepidoptera and a Ditch Creek open inquiry.
The first group compared pikas’ behavior in the morning and at night. Pikas are very intolerant to heat, and they wanted to see how these pikas were adapting to climate change.
The second group collected and identified species of Lepidoptera and flowers to see if Lepidoptera abundance and diversity affected the abundance and diversity of flowers.
Kanost’s group, the Ditch Creek open inquiry, chose to test whether water quality in the national park and national forest, the Ditch Creek, was different from that of the Flat Creek, which runs through urban settings. Finally, they tested the water quality’s effects on invertebrate diversity and abundance, and plant coverage.
Each group presented their findings to the other two groups, then all three groups had the opportunity to present their findings to researchers at AMK Ranch, a research center for the University of Wyoming.
“It was kind of stressful and almost like when you have a project and you want to make it perfect, but it was even worse than that because it wasn’t just a school project … we were presenting it to people who do that for a living, so it was really intimidating. I’d have to say, that was the most challenging part,” Kanost said.
The entire group backpacked through the Tetons in the fourth week. Kanost especially enjoyed this part of the trip.
“I think my favorite part was the backpacking, but also it was just kind of like the mountains were right there; every day, you’d just look at them and they were amazing,” Kanost said.
At the end of the program, they had a ceremony and everyone who took the trip received two symbolic rocks and a belt buckle made from recycled material.
“He gave us this whole talk about being a leader and how people who have done these science courses are now doing really great things in the environmental field. Kind of corny, but then he gave us all two rocks … If it’s dark outside, and you scrape the rocks together, they will spark … He told us about this leader from a really long time ago and how she brought light to a people; it was really symbolic,” Kanost said.
“It was a new tradition started this year that they give everyone belt buckles, and I wear mine all the time now,” Kanost said.
Kanost enjoyed the trip and wants everyone to have an experience like his.