Since I began teaching Ecology at Pratt, I have used the re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone as the cornerstone case study of my community ecology lessons. Using material originally developed by my colleague Damon Chaky for the Ecology for Architects course, I ask my students to use ecological theory to explain some of the changes that have occurred in Yellowstone since the return of wolves. As a “natural experiment”, this case study also helps my students understand how difficult it can be to establish cause-and-effect relationships in ecological systems.
Because the effects of wolves are unfolding over time, it is important to maintain up-to-date readings on the subject. Most recently I have used the 2010 National Geographic article “Wolf Wars” and the 2014 Nature article “Rethinking Predators: Legend of the Wolf” to provide my students with the broad overview needed to understand both the pattern of change in Yellowstone and the scientific debate about how to explain that pattern of change. These are both great articles, but in particular the National Geographic article is beginning to feel a bit out of date.
I was excited to learn that a new article was recently published in Science entitled “Lessons from the Wild Lab“. Written by Virginia Morell, the article provides the best of all worlds on this subject: a historical overview of how humans have altered Yellowstone, the updated story on how the park’s ecosystems have changed since wolf re-introduction, and a balanced depiction of the scientific debate over what has caused changes in the Yellowstone community. This is definitely an article that I will assign to my future Ecology and Ecology for Architects students!A Minor Post, Anthropogenic Change, Articles, Biodiversity Loss, Community Ecology, Conservation Biology, Ecology, Interactions, Keystone Species, MSCI-270, Ecology, MSCI-271, Ecology for Architects, Predation, Public Policy