Science departments explore Yellowstone


When Samantha Decker, a junior multimedia major, was approached by her biology professor, George Clokey, about a trip to Yellowstone Park, she hesitated.


“I was really skeptical on going on the trip, considering I was a communication major,” Decker said.

Decker talked to an advisor and found out she was able to use the trip as a part of an independent study opportunity, and she changed her mind.

After the three-week travel study trip was over, Decker said she would go back to Yellowstone Park “in a heartbeat.”

Decker was joined by 21 other biology and geology department students.

Students participating in the travel study visited Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, the Black Hills of South Dakota and Makoshika State Park in Glendive, Mont.

Decker’s responsibilities including taking pictures and recording video footage to create promotional material for the biology department.

“I love the outdoors, so going to Yellowstone was perfect for me,” she said. “I’m a really big hunter and fisher.”

At the beginning of the trip, Decker was counting down the days until the three-week trip was over.  By the end of the first week, she wasn’t even thinking about the countdown, she said.

“I had completely forgot how many days I had left, because you just get so absorbed in what you’re doing,” Decker said.

There was a lot to keep Decker busy.  Not only did she have to take pictures and video, but she had to participate in the science class, too.

“I was just as much a student as everyone else,” she said. “It was a bit of extra work to take the images on top of being in the class, but I expected the work.”

Decker said she didn’t mind the extra work.  She said it was cool to take a ton of the pictures that other people missed, including candid shots of her classmates.

“She did quite a few pictures of us as a group and us actually working in the field, and that was really cool,” said senior ecology major Jessica Greve.

Greve had been to Yellowstone before but thought it was much more exciting when learning about it in the field study.

Like Decker and the other students on the trip, Greve described her experience at Yellowstone as being awesome.

Junior biology major Aaron King was also among the students on the trip.

“It’s the best thing I’ve done so far in my college experience,” King said.

Junior Nick Rudolph, a biology major who went on the trip, said it was too short, and he didn’t want to leave so soon.

Rudolph and King’s favorite part of the trip was the last day the class spent in Yellowstone, where one of Clokey’s friends, who specializes in wolf biology, led the class to one of the wolf packs in the park.  The class observed the pack and the handful of pups there for several hours.

Decker said she was impressed by all of the wildlife in the park.  She said just seeing Yellowstone in its entirety was a great experience, but one of highlights for her was seeing Jewel Cave in South Dakota.

“The pictures and videos I was able to capture can give viewers a good idea of how amazing the trip was,” Decker said.

A portion of Decker’s photos are going to appear on a slideshow on the biology department’s website, and the videos are going to be used in a promotional video for prospective students.

The students at Yellowstone National Park
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