What inspired you to begin studying wildlife conservation?
I was a young teenager during the environmental conservation movement of the 1970’s. At a time when I was searching for meaning and purpose for my life the country was celebrating the first Earth Day and passing conservation laws were being passed one after another, the Endangered Species Act, The Clean Air Act, The Wilderness Act. I wanted to be part of that movement, and part of the solution to the problems of habitat loss and declining wildlife populations. Selfishly, I also wanted to work and live in wild and beautiful places, which is what brought me to the Rockies and Montana.
Why is this study so important? What do you hope the research will achieve?
Huckleberry is a critical food for many wildlife species, but none so much as the grizzly bear. I think most people would find it surprising how dependent western Montana grizzly bears are on this one particular food source. What’s even more curious is how this relationship can be so precarious because of the variability in huckleberry production from year to year. This study will help address questions as to what conditions are the most favorable for berry production, which can ultimately help predict what will happen to this important food source with climate change
What is one of your favorite moments in the field?
It’s difficult to pick just one. Anytime I am in the forests and mountains of Montana, regardless of weather or time of year, I feel fortunate to be part of something still so wild and beautiful. I especially enjoy the springtime when the forests are filled with bird songs. I find it most gratifying when I have travelled far into the wilderness, knowing that I am in a landscape nearly devoid of people, knowing that I am in one of the last few intact wild places left on earth.