RPTS 689 Special Topics in Protected Area Management: People and Wolves in Greater Yellowstone

 People and Wolves in Greater Yellowstone

Gray Wolf -(National Park service photo)

Gray Wolf (National Park service photo)

Gray Wolf (National Park Service photo)

Gray Wolf (National Park Service photo)

The graduate program of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University.

Through on-the-ground experiences, this course introduces graduate students to the social, cultural, and ecological complexities of transboundary collaboration, sustainable tourism, interpretation, and historic preservation in protected areas.


Field Site

The course takes place in Yellowstone National Park and Montana’s Paradise Valley. The base of operations is the Yellowstone Association’s Overlook Field Campus in Gardiner, Montana outside Yellowstone’s north entrance. The recovery plan for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) included Yellowstone as one of three restoration areas. The project is considered to be one of the most successful recoveries of an endangered species under the 1973 Endangered Species Act. However, wolves remain a source of conflict in Greater Yellowstone. Issues addressed in this course include factors affecting transboundary collaboration in wolf management, whether wolves and park neighbors can co-exist, interpretation of wolf recovery to visitors, and actions to support sustainable tourism and historic preservation in Yellowstone National Park.



During the course students will:

  • Be introduced to the history of gray wolf management in Greater Yellowstone (classroom sessions at Texas A&M University).
  • Observe gray wolves and wolf-associated recreation in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley.
  • Meet with National Park Service Wolf Project staff.
  • Visit a rancher and hunting outfitter in Montana’s Paradise Valley.
  • Evaluate wolf interpretation and related cultural resource management issues.
  • Observe sustainable tourism and historic preservation practices in Yellowstone’s Old Faithful area.
  • Complete written and oral assignments during the course.

Faculty Leaders

The 2014 field course will be led by:

  • James Gramann (RPTS)

Gramann is a professor of protected area policy in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University. He served eight years in Washington, D.C. as the lead social scientist for the National Park Service.

  • James Miculka (National Park Service)

Miculka is the national coordinator of the Amtrak–National Park Service Trails and Rails partnership, a cooperative interpretive program. He is an adjunct professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University.



This course confers 3 academic credits from Texas A&M University. It will be listed as a 689 course in the graduate catalog for first Summer Session 2014.



Yellowstone Association mini bus (photo by Bill Mahoney)

Yellowstone Association mini bus (photo by Bill Mahoney)

The cost for the course is $605. This includes classroom sessions at Texas A&M University, 4 night’s lodging at the Yellowstone Association Institute’s Overlook Field Campus, van transportation between Salt Lake City, Utah and Gardiner, Montana, transportation in Yellowstone National Park and the Paradise Valley, services of a Yellowstone Association driver and certified naturalist guide, and the use of wildlife spotting scopes. The cost does not include graduate tuition for 3 credit hours, transportation between College Station and Salt Lake City, or meals. There is a supermarket in Gardiner, Montana (as well as several restaurants) and kitchen facilities at the Overlook Field Campus. Students may cover the cost of the course themselves and/or seek funding from their department and other on-campus and external sources.


Old Faithful Inn lobby  (National Park Service photo)

Old Faithful Inn lobby (National Park Service photo)

All graduate students with a strong interest in the social, cultural, and/or ecological dimensions of protected area management, endangered species recovery, sustainable tourism, and historic preservation are eligible. Students from the social sciences, natural sciences, and the humanities are encouraged to apply. Participation is limited to graduate students enrolled at Texas A&M University-College Station.

Other Information

 Before leaving College Station, all students are required to complete the Yellowstone Association Institute’s confidential health questionnaire and an “Assumption of Risk and Agreement of Release and Indemnity.”

Students will be active participants in the course. Most of Yellowstone National Park is above 7000 feet (2100 meters). Activities at this elevation are more strenuous than the same activities at lower elevations, and some people could experience associated health complications. To learn more about how specific medical conditions can be affected by Yellowstone’s environment visit:  https://www.yellowstoneassociation.org/health.

In May, the average low temperature in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley is 25° F (-4° C) and the average high is 51° F (11° C). The Old Faithful area is cooler due to its higher elevation. Students should dress for cooler temperatures, especially during early morning wolf observation activities.


How to Apply

The People and Wolves field course has limited, highly competitive, spaces available. Enrollment is capped at 10 students due to accommodation limits at the Overlook Field Campus. To apply, send a CV and letter of interest to Dr. James Gramann at jgramann@tamu.edu.

Applications will be chosen based on merit, strong letters of interest, and overall program balance. We seek highly motivated students while striving to represent the diversity of graduate students at Texas A&M University.


Application deadline:  14 February 2014


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