Kids Ask WhYProduced by Wyoming Public Media and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Kids Ask WhY features young journalists from Wyoming, who explore topics that connect them to their home--the modern American West. Diving into questions about Wyoming's history, wildlife, and culture, their thoughtful conclusions help people of all ages see Wyoming through a new lens.
Produced by Wyoming Public Media and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Kids Ask WhY features young journalists from Wyoming, who explore topics that connect them to their home--the modern American West. Diving into questions about Wyoming's history, wildlife, and culture, their thoughtful conclusions help people of all ages see Wyoming through a new lens.
Episode 4: Why Are Beavers And Mountain Men Linked In History?
Photo: NPS/Bob Greenburg Madison Burckhardt and Breann Berg wanted to find out more about why they think Wyoming is wonderful. Madison a nine-year-old from Cody, Wyoming is interested in beavers and interviewed biologist, Jerry Altermatt about how beavers influence the environment and why they sometimes have to be moved. By the end, she confirmed why she thought beavers were awesome and their influences on waterways and meadows. Breann, a ten-year-old from Rawlins, Wyoming became interested in mountain men while learning about them at school and wanted to know more. In the second half of the episode, Breann interviews Clay Landry, fur trade historian, to discuss her favorite mountain man, John Colter, and his adventures in the Yellowstone region. Madison Burckhardt Madison is a ten-year-old native of Cody Wyoming. Madison is a fantastic artist who loves wildlife, nature, and horses. Madison's love for beavers began when she had the opportunity to help a Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist trap, care for and relocate a family of beavers. Jerry Altermatt Jerry Altermatt is a Terrestrial Habitat Biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Cody, Wyoming. He has been working to enhance habitat for wildlife in the Cody Region since 1992. Breann Berg Breann is a fifth grader at Rawlins Elementary School. Like every true Wyoming girl, she is the perfect combination of warrior and princess. She loves to hunt, fish, and camp. She is active in the Carbon County 4-H program; where she participates in dog, geology, entomology, visual arts, and ceramics. She also races BMX competitively, and is a regionally ranked rider. Breann is also a dancer at heart and spends countless hours at her local studio where she studies ballet, tap, and jazz. Clay Landry An avid researcher of Rocky Mountain Fur Trade history, Clay Landry's study and emphasis on the material culture items used by the men of the Rocky Mountain Fur trade has resulted in the authorship of numerous published essays and articles. A recognized authority on early nineteenth century fur trade material culture, he also conducts demonstrations and seminars on Mountaineer clothing, food, horse gear, and trade goods. His "hands on" knowledge of the life style and culture of the mountain men led to Clay being selected as the Wilderness and Historical Advisor on the Oscar winning film "The Revenant". Jeremy M. Johnston Jeremy is the Historian of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, the Hal and Naoma Tate Endowed Chair of Western History, and the Managing Editor of The Papers of William F. Cody. Johnston attended the University of Wyoming, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1993 and his Master of Arts in 1995. Johnston earned his Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2017. Johnston has collaborated on several books and has published various articles in Annals of Wyoming, Colorado Heritage, Points West, Readings of Wyoming History, and Yellowstone Science. Explore More For additional information, vocabulary definitions, activities and more click here! Transcript NARRATOR: Welcome to the Kids Ask Why podcast where kids ask the questions. This is a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. MADISON BURCKHARDT: My name is Madison Burckhardt and I live just out of town up the South Fork in Cody, Wyoming. The reason I am interested in beavers is that I helped my mom trap and release beavers and I would like to know more about them. Today I am speaking with Jerry Altermatt. He is the terrestrial habitat biologist at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Cody, Wyoming. MADISON: How long do beavers live in the wild? JERRY ALTERMATT: In the wild? Well, in the wild, they live probably no more than 10 or 12 years. If they're in captivity and they're well fed and in really good health, I've heard of beaver living past 20 years. But there's a lot of reasons why they don't live that long in the wild. I have heard that the oldest beaver that's been recorded in the wild was 21 years old. But that's pretty rare for a beaver to live that long. MADISON: Do beavers venture out of their den in winter? JERRY: They do. A lot of people might think that since they never see beaver in the winter that beaver might hibernate and they don't. They're actually very active in the winter. But we don't see them. They're just as active in the winter as they are in the summer and they probably leave their den just as much in the winter as the summer. But we don't see them, we don't see evidence of them. Because all their activity is actually underneath the ice. A beaver dam usually has a couple of entrances. And there's always one entrance that is below the water level. And of course in the winter, that's below the ice. So a beaver leaves the den for the same reason that you would leave your room. You couldn't stay in your room for an entire winter, you have to get up and go to the bathroom and get something to eat. Beaver are the same way. So all their food is not kept in the den. It's actually stored at the bottom of the pond in what's called a food cache. And so every day, maybe even several times a day, they're leaving their dam and swimming out of their den to the bottom of that pond, grabbing some of that food and bringing it back inside the den. MADISON: What are the predators of beavers? JERRY: Well, they have lots of predators. So all of the big predators that we have in Wyoming will eat beaver. So that includes grizzly bear, black bear, wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, even red fox will take beaver kits. Almost everything loves beaver meat, in fact our bear people use scent from a beaver to attract bears to their traps. Everything's attracted to the smell of a beaver. But they have to leave the water, to forage, to find things to eat. And that's when they're the most vulnerable. In fact, you can walk faster than a beaver can run at its fastest. And that's why one of the reasons they build dams is to actually bring the water to their food source. They don't have to venture very far from the water to get their food so they have less chance of being eaten by a predator. MADISON: How do beavers help streams? NPS / Neal Herbert JERRY: Oh, that is a great question. So when you say help streams, maybe we ought to talk about what a stream does, why is the stream important, and what it does. A stream basically moves water from one place to another. And what beaver do, or more what we should say is what beaver dams do, is to change the way that water is moved. So anytime that water can be slowed down, that's usually a good thing for both the stream and for all the things that depend on that stream. So really simply put, what a beaver dam does is it slows water down and stores it by backing up water behind a dam, and that does a lot of really good things. It also helps flooding so when you have a storm event like a big thunderstorm that puts a lot of water into a creek and it's going really fast. And that can cause a lot of damage, it can cause flooding, and it can cause a lot of erosion in the creek. And so what that beaver dam does is it just holds back that water and takes all the energy out of it, and slows it down. But one of the most important things that it does, water is really important in Wyoming, whenever you see a stream or creek or a river, you'll notice that there's a lot of vegetation around it, it's always greener. So what a plant needs is to have its roots get into at least moist soil. And that's why plants around a creek are usually greener and bigger, and just more of the vegetation. And the other thing that they do, is kind of on the opposite side of the flooding thing, is that you increase the water that flows in late summer. A lot of these creeks without beaver dams would just go dry in the summer. MADISON: What's your favorite thing about beavers? JERRY: My favorite thing about beavers? Well, one of the things that's kind of neat about beavers is that when they find a mate, they usually keep that mate for life unless that mate dies. So when a male beaver gets together with a female beaver, they'll stay together unless one of them dies. And that's kind of neat. You don't see that a lot in the animal world. WY Game and Fish MADISON: After I spoke with Jerry, I thought beavers were especially cool because they helped habitat. Beavers are not living in streams where they historically were found. In order to get beavers and streams where they used to be, they are trapped out of problem areas, such as irrigation ditches. Once all the family is caught, then they're released into new streams where they can benefit a stream. BREANN: Hi, my name is Breann Berg. I live in Rawlins, Wyoming and I'm a fourth grader at Rawlins Elementary School. The reason I am interested in John Colter, Yellowstone, and Mountain Men is because I read about them in my Wyoming history book and I wanted to learn more. John Colter joined the Corps of Discovery led by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark. In 1804 through 1806 he had to enlist in the army as a private since it was a military expedition. He quickly became one of the most trusted members and was relied upon for his tracking and hunting skills. In 1806, Colter asked to leave the army and the Corp of Discovery early to join the trappers, Horace Hancock and Joseph Dixon. Lewis and Clark agreed and Colter began his years of adventures in the Rockies. In 1807, Colter broke from Hancock and Dixon and joined Manuelle Lisa's trading company. While with Lisa, Colter helped find new areas for trapping beaver whose pelts were wanted for hats. I am speaking with Clay Landry. I am interviewing Clay because he's one of the top fur trade historians and the historical advisor on the movie, The Revenant. BREANN: When John Colter was in Yellowstone, do we know what part of the park he actually explored? CLAY LANDRY: Well, his exact route once he left the Shoshone river, he went south down to the Wind River and went up over Togwotee Pass into Jackson Hole and came into the park from the south, from Jackson Hole. And most of the maps, the treks that are shown on William Clark's maps indicate this. Some of them get a little fuzzy and some historians are debating the exact route. But most people are pretty sure or agree, most historians agree, that he came into the park from the south and went along the western edge of Yellowstone Lake and followed the lake till he hit the Yellowstone River. He saw the Yellowstone Canyon cross there and worked his way back over to the east towards Sunlight Basin and the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone. That's kind of the route that we can surmise from the indications of William Clark's map. BREANN: How did he describe Yellowstone and his experiences there? French Trapper by Frederic Remington (61.72) CLAY: Well, you have to remember that people of this time period we're not used to seeing geysers, and boiling pots, and mud pots, and stuff. And so one of the things that's pretty evident from the accounts that Colter left about what he saw in Yellowstone is that they are very scarce. And he's really guarded about what he tells people about that area. Because he didn't want, quite frankly, he didn't want them to think he was crazy. That he'd stayed out in the mountains too long and he got a little problem with his imagination, making things up. He did relate to several people, one of them a naturalist that recorded in his journal what he saw. The geysers, and the mud pots, and the boiling springs, and all that stuff. So he was one of the first, probably the first, that we can document, that related to other people of that time period, who recorded in their journals, that this magical place in Yellowstone existed that people had never seen the likes of in the United States at that time. BREANN: Did people think he was crazy when he told them about his discovery? CLAY: Yeah, not necessarily crazy but they thought that he was embellishing on what he saw, most of the people he was talking to had no experience with geothermal features, the geysers, shooting water hundreds of feet, you know, several feet out of the ground and things like that. So it was strange to anybody he would have talked to, it was quite natural for people to question what he really saw. But as more and more mountain men filtered into that part of the country in search of beaver, the truth became very common. BREANN: After Yellowstone's discovery, what did John Colter do next? CLAY: Well, he went back to Manuel Lisa's fort at the mouth of the Bighorn River where it entered Yellowstone. And he operated as a trapper out of that fort in spring of 1808 and he operated there until 1810 when he eventually decided to leave. He had some very tough times with Indians going into the Three Forks area, in 1808 and then again in 1810, when he led an expedition back into the Three Forks. So he was a busy man for those years and he had enough close encounters with death that he decided to quit the mountains. BREANN: Is the legend of John Colter and the Indians true? CLAY: Yes, there are two different accounts of the same story and they're very legitimate. BREANN: Joining this interview is Jeremy Johnston, Historian at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, who will be telling about Colter's famous run for his life from the Blackfeet Indians. Blackfoot Captive by W.H.D. Koerner (18.77) JEREMY JOHNSTON: John Colter's run in with the Blackfeet occurred on the Jefferson river, one of the three forks of the Missouri River. He was trapping there with a trapper by the name of Potts, and the two men were going down the river in their canoe, collecting their traps when they ran into a Blackfeet encampment. Warriors from the camp rushed out, grabbed the canoe and started helping themselves to the trappers' belongings. One of the warriors grabbed Pott's gun. Colter responded by grabbing the rifle back from the warrior handing it to Potts. But Potts aimed the rifle at one of the warriors, fired, and killed him. And as a result, the rest of the warriors filled Potts full of arrows. You got to keep in mind John Colter had fought the Blackfeet a little while ago before this occurred, and he had joined the Flathead and the Crow Indians against the Blackfeet, marking him as one of their enemies. One of the warriors asked John Colter if he was a fast runner. Colter, having some suspicion as to what was going to follow, said no, he was a terrible runner, knowing that he could hopefully outrun most of the warriors. So a race was designed. John Colter in his naked condition was given a head start. Warriors from the Blackfeet encampment started chasing him, and John Colter was able to outdistance all but one. One warrior with a spear was right behind him. John Colter was able to spin around, catch this Blackfeet warrior off guard, grab the spear, kill him, and continue fleeing towards the river. John Colter jumped into the waters. He found a log jam and crawled underneath the log jam for cover to hide out. And with his body just submerged below the water, John Colter sat there for hours as the Blackfeet scurried around some even crossing on top of the log jam, trying to find him. Once dark occurred, John Colter set off towards Lisa's post at the mouth of the Big Horn. It took him seven days walking without any cover on his feet, without any sunscreen through all of the elements. And by the time he got to Lisa's post, he was in such deplorable condition that many of his fellow trappers thought he was a sick Indian, and offered to shoot him and put him out of his misery until they realized that it was John Colter. John Colter nursed his wounds recovered, and believe it or not, went back to the Three Forks region again. John Colter shared his adventure with John Bradbury, who was an English botanist exploring the West looking at various plants. Bradbury wrote about this in his journals. It was then picked up by Washington Irving, the famous author of Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, who included it in his history of the early fur trade in a book titled Astoria. BREANN: Do you think he inspired others to explore the West? CLAY: I definitely think he did because both he and Drouillard had ties to William Clark, and Drouillard when he would go back to St. Louis, Clark always wanted to see the men that had been on the expedition with them. Whenever they'd come back from the mountains, [he wanted] to gain more information about what they saw and where they went, and update his map. And just that alone, what they saw, the animals and things like that, they bring those stories back to St. Louis. Colter was legendary before he died. People, like I said, the Astorians stopped on the river just to visit with him when he was at his farm to talk to him about what he saw and what he did. So, yes, he inspired a lot of people to see the upper Missouri country and explore the Rocky Mountains. BREANN: Thank you. That's all I have. CLAY: Okay, well, thank you. BREANN: After I spoke with my expert, I realized John Colter was more than just a mountain man. In school, I learned he was famous for discovering Yellowstone, but he did a lot more. He was very adventurous. He discovered Yellowstone but he helped tell the Crow about the new fort. Plus, all his adventures inspired other mountain men. MADISON & BREANN: And that's why we ask why. NARRATOR: If there were no pictures or videos how would you describe a beaver and where it lives to someone? Share your answers with us on Facebook, at the Kids Ask Why podcast page, or at Twitter @centerofthewest Thanks for listening to this episode of Kids Ask Why. If you want to learn more about beavers and mountain men, check out our website at kidsaskywhy.org where we have lots of different resources. And again, thanks for listening. Tune in next week. NARRATOR 2: This podcast is produced by Emily Buckles, Gretchen Henrich, Megan Smith, and Kirsten Arnold. Our executive producer is Kamila Kudelska. Levi Meyer and Anna Rader are our digital consultants. Kids Ask Why is a production of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and Wyoming Public Media.
Episode 4: Why Are Beavers And Mountain Men Linked In History?
Episode 3: why are trout vital to Wyoming's ecosystem?
Joshua Burckhardt and Niko Skoric are located at Trout Creek in Niko's backyard learning about one of their favorite activities–fishing. They interview Wyoming Game and Fish Fishery Biologist Jason Burckhardt and a graduate student John Fennell about fish biology, research, and management. These biologists help Joshua and Niko understand the importance of studying fish and their habitats, and then share some fishing tips! During this episode the group wades in the creek, turning over rocks and discussing the different kinds of insects they find. Joshua Burckhardt Joshua is an eight-year-old native of Cody Wyoming. Joshua is very passionate about wildlife and the outdoors. Joshua loves fishing, catching lizards, snakes and other reptiles, hiking, water sports, hunting, and taekwondo. Jason Burckhardt Jason earned a BS in Biology from Truman State University (MO) in 1997, and a MS in Zoology and Physiology with an emphasis in fisheries from the University of Wyoming in 2002. He has been a Fisheries Biologist with WGFD in Cody for the last 18 years. When he is not sampling fish for work he enjoys getting out-of-doors, fishing, camping, and hunting with his wife and two kids. Niko Skoric Niko has lived on a creek since his birth. He began practicing fishing with a Cars fishing pole–an old tire as the bait–at the age of 2. His fishing obsession extends from the creek to rivers, lakes, oceans, and of course frozen waters. One can find him fishing from shore, motorized boats, kayaks, bridges, even our deck. Niko's other interests include reading, shooting, riding motorcycles, alpine skiing, hiking and biking. John Fennell John is a graduate research assistant pursuing a master's degree from the University of Wyoming. His research aims to understand the dynamics of hybridization between Yellowstone cutthroat trout and rainbow trout in the North Fork Shoshone River drainage. He received his bachelor's degree in Fisheries Management from Auburn University in 2015. Before starting at that the University of Wyoming, he worked as a fisheries technician for both the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. In his free time John enjoys fly fishing, hiking and playing golf. Explore More For additional information, vocabulary definitions, activities and more click here! Transcript NARRATOR: Welcome to the Kids Ask Why podcast, where kids ask the questions. This is a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. JOSHUA BURCKHARDT: I'm Joshua, and I go to Livingston Elementary School and I'm in second grade, and I'm eight years old. I live just out of town in Cody. I'm interested in learning more about fish and fishing. I like it when you're just holding on to a pole, and then, um, I like the feeling that you get when you catch the fish. Especially, when I caught a dozen perch at Beck Lake and three big trout! NIKO SKORIC: My name is Nico Skoric. I live in Wapiti, Wyoming. I am 10 years old. I go to Eastside Elementary. I've been fishing for a long time, probably since I was like three and a half. And I'm in fourth grade. I like fishing because there's multiple ways to fish. You can ice fish, fish off of a boat, fly fish, and creek fish and river fish. Probably one of my favorite fishing memories is when my dad and his friend first took me ice fishing and I caught three fish that day. We are currently at the stream in my backyard. And I like it because if I want to go fish in open season I can. I don't have to like go to the lake or anything. And it's special to me because besides fishing, we still can have a lot of fun in it, like swimming in it. Today we are going to be learning about trout and other fish in Wyoming. JOSHUA: Today we're talking with my dad Jason Burckhardt, who works at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. And John Fennell, who's a graduate student at the University of Wyoming. They are going to help us learn more about fish. Why is fishing popular in Wyoming? JASON: It is a great place to fish we have lots of places that have lots of opportunity for people to go out and fish. We've got lots of public land and wide open spaces, where people can get access to fish in beautiful streams like we have here, like Niko has in his backyard. JOSHUA: When do fish lay their eggs? JASON: It really depends upon the kind of fish that you're talking about. The fish that we have here in the North Fork Shoshone River drainage are rainbow trout and cutthroat trout. Both of those fish spawn in the springtime. So typically it's going to be around late May through the end of June when the fish that are in this river are spawning and in the streams. Now other fish spawn at other times. We have, if you're talking about trout, brown trout, and brook trout that spawn in the fall. We have mountain white fish here as well in the North Fork, and they spawn in the fall as well. So it really depends upon the type of fish that we're talking about, but the ones that we have here on the North Fork Shoshone, they're mostly rainbow and cutthroat and they're spawning in the springtime. JOSHUA: Why do different species of fish eggs look different? JASON: So can you give us examples of a couple of different kinds of fish species? I know you're talking about trout earlier. So comparing a trout egg to something else, what other fish? JOSHUA: So like, how there's a big difference in a cutthroat trout and a yellow perch? JASON: Yeah. So we went fishing recently and we kept a few yellow perch, and they have tiny little eggs that are about the size of grains of sand, right? And then we also caught some cutthroat trout recently that had big eggs that are about the size of a pea. You wanted to know why they were different? Well, if you think about it on just a fish scale, those fish that are generating eggs that are bigger, they're putting a lot more energy into each individual egg. And the fish like a yellow perch that can have thousands, if not 10s of thousands of eggs that they spawn when they reproduce. They they're putting a lot less energy into each individual egg. Now what that means is, the fish that puts a lot of energy into the bigger eggs, they have a higher probability of one of those fish surviving to reproduce itself, than those fish have little bitty eggs. The fish that have little bitty eggs produce a lot more, but a smaller fraction of those eggs will actually survive to reproduce themselves. JOSHUA: Why do fish lay eggs instead of give "live birth"? JASON: Well, we do have some fish that give live birth, like the guppies that you have in your fish tank. Those give live birth. But it's for the same reason, it takes a lot of energy to produce a young. You can produce fewer young if you're giving birth to live young than those fish that lay lots of eggs. So instead of laying lots of eggs and having fewer of those survive, some fish give live birth, and they put more energy into just a few of those individuals so that they have a greater chance of survival. What an animal wants to do is produce enough young so that some of those can go on and reproduce themselves. So they have different strategies that they use. JOSHUA: Where do fish lay their eggs? JOHN FENNELL: So the fish species that I study- the Yellowstone cutthroat trout and the rainbow trout, the ones we're trying to catch today- they spend a lot of their time in that Reservoir, but they come up into the river and some of these tributaries to lay their eggs because there's flowing water. And that flowing water is important because those eggs need that to survive or else they'll suffocate and die. So these fish come up here, starting sometime in April or in the spring, and the female fish will build a nest with her tail to lay her eggs in. NIKO SKORIC: How many species of fish are native to Wyoming? JASON: There are 49 fish that are native to Wyoming and most of those fish are little minnow species that live down at lower elevations. So in the North Fork Shoshone River drainage, we've got two species of "salmonids" that are in the trout family that are native. Do you know which ones those are? NIKO: The brook trout? JASON: Well, actually, the brook trout is not native, the Yellowstone cutthroat is the only trout that's native. And we have another species that's in the trout family. It's a mountain whitefish. Have you heard of one of those? Yep. We've got those here as well. We have a couple of introduced species, like you mentioned, the brook trout. Those are native to the eastern part of the U.S. from the Labrador as far south as the Appalachians mountains in Georgia. And they range as far west as the Great Lakes states. And we have brown trout, which are native to Europe. And we have rainbow trout that are native to the Western US, from California, all the way up into Alaska. NIKO: How many types of trout are there? JASON: So it really depends on what you want to call a type of trout. I mentioned that the types of trout that we have in Wyoming. The most common trout that we have are rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout. We also have our native cutthroat trout, but we have several subspecies of cutthroat trout that are native to the State of Wyoming. NIKO: What kind of trout is the smallest? JOHN: So all trout when they're hatched are about the same size. Remember, we said those eggs hatch and those fish live in the gravel for a little while. We call those alevin, they have big yolk sacs on their stomach that they live off of. And then they emerge from the gravel and they're all about the same size– they may be an inch to two inches long. Then where they live determines how big a trout gets. So a fish that lives in a really tiny stream, somewhere really high, where it's really cold and there's not a lot of food might not grow very big. That fish might be six or seven inches long when it's 10 years old, and we have other fish trout that live in this reservoir Buffalo Bill Reservoir that might be 18 inches long when they're three years old. And that's because they have a lot more space and food and they live in that big reservoir. So it depends less on what type of trout is and more where it lives. NIKO: Why don't fish like muddy water? JOHN: Well, some fish do better in muddy water than others. The trout that we that we see today, they like that clean, nice clear water, right? They like these streams when they're nice and clean and clear, because they dig that nest with their tail to lay their eggs. And the reason they they dig an actual nest is they're cleaning off that gravel. They want all that mud and silt, brushed off those rocks so that their eggs get some flowing water and get that oxygen. There are some species of fish that don't mind it if it's muddy. We see that less up in these beautiful mountain streams but if you go somewhere in the south or where it's warmer or anywhere else in the world where maybe the water is warmer and more muddy, some fish do really well there. JASON: It really depends on the type of fish you're talking about. And sometimes we think that fish don't like muddy water because we have a hard time catching it when the water is pretty muddy. So a lot of times we have lots of fish in the stream even when the stream is at its muddiest because that is when fish are moving up out of the reservoir. The reservoir is pretty clear this time of year but the fish are running up into these streams that are muddy because they're going up way high up into these mountain tributaries to find clear water to spawn. NIKO: Do you put bait in your nets? JOHN: We do not put bait in our nets that we use to catch trout. We're relying on those fish that are coming out of the reservoir and coming into Trout Creek- into this stream here- that are moving up, trying to find that really clear water to lay their eggs. They're moving up and we're hoping that they find their way into one of our traps. So we don't put bait in our traps. There are some kinds of fish that you might try and catch in the trap where you would put some sort of bait. Do you know what a catfish is? They have really good senses of smells that have these long barbells that pick up scents in the water. You might use a some bait in a trap like that. I have another graduate student in my lab who does research on one of those really small Wyoming fish. It's called a Finescale Dace and he works in northeast Wyoming. And he puts out traps for those minnows and he baits them with cat food, wet cat food. And so, I don't, but some people do. NIKO: That's all my questions. UNKNOWN SPEAKER: Oh yeah. Look at that caddisfly! NIKO: After learning more about the fish in Wyoming, I think they are interesting and weird. Fish and trout are important to the ecosystem because they eat bugs. They also are a food source for eagles, otters and bears. Even other fish eat them like walleye. They eat small fish and fish eggs. Sadly, though, sometimes certain trout harm the ecosystem. So we need to be aware and take care. JOSHUA: After I spoke with my expert, I thought it was really cool how many different types of bugs lived under rocks in a stream? Unknown Speaker: That's another mayfly! Yeah, let's go put this one in the tote. JOSHUA: It's important to study trout populations to make sure there's still plenty of good waters for people to fish. It's important to study Yellowstone cutthroat trout, our native trout so we can make sure they're still doing okay. For example, we need to know how many fish are in a stream, what things might be affecting them, so we also need to make sure non-native trout such as rainbow trout and brook trout, are not out-competing the Yellowstone cutthroats. Biologist use this information to adjust their management. JOSHUA and NIKO: And that's why we ask why! NARRATOR: Thanks for listening to this episode of Kids Ask Why. If you want to learn more about trout and fish in general in Wyoming, check out our website at kidsaskwhy.org, where we have lots of different resources. And now do you have a good fish story? If so, go to the Kids Ask Why Facebook page or Twitter page and share it with us. And again, thanks for listening. NARRATOR 2: This podcast is produced by Emily Buckles, Gretchen Henrich, Megan Smith, and Kirsten Arnold. Our executive producer is Kamila Kudelska. Levi Meyer and Anna Rader are our digital consultants. Kids Ask Why is a production of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and Wyoming Public Media.
Episode 3: why are trout vital to Wyoming's ecosystem?
Photo: Mack H. Frost Over half of the state of Wyoming is owned publicly by federal or state governments. Molly Stanton, Hannah Bertalot, and Sunday Schuh explore why public lands are important to the people of Wyoming, and the rest of the country. Molly explains the importance of public lands for hunting and mule deer conservation as she interviews Joshua Coursey, the founder and CEO of Muley Fanatic Foundation. Hannah interviews geologist Gretchen Hurley and learns about the protected mountain ranges of Wyoming. And Sunday discusses her love of Yellowstone National Park, as she interviews retired Superintendent Dan Wenk about tourism in Yellowstone. Molly Stanton Molly is 13 years old. She has grown up in Southwest Wyoming and has been exposed to all things outdoors. She and her family go fishing, camping, and hunting frequently. They also own a cabin which they use all the time for all activities outdoors. Some of her hobbies indoors include, playing volleyball, doing all things 4-H and hanging out with family. Most of the time you can find her working with her turkeys for 4-H or playing outside with her sister. She loves being outside and in the WILD!! Joshua Coursey Joshua W.D. Coursey is a Wyoming native who upon graduation from Rock Springs High School in 1992 served in the U.S. Army as a Photo Journalist for four years. His education includes an Associate of Science from WWCC, a Bachelor of Science in Emergency Management from Grand Canyon University and is a graduate of Leadership of Wyoming with the Class of 2019. An avid sportsman, Josh's reverence for God, Family, and Country embodies the passion that spurred his efforts to co-found the Muley Fanatic Foundation, a 501 C (3) non-profit conservation organization that was established in 2012. Headquartered in Green River, Wyoming with 17 Chapters operating across 6 states, the Muley Fanatic Foundation aims to ensure the conservation of mule deer and their habitat and to provide such supporting services to further the sport of hunting and sound wildlife management. Hannah Bertalot Hannah is a sixth grader in Park County, Wyoming. She is an avid animal lover and enjoys the great outdoors. She spends much of her time mountain biking, skiing, and camping often providing her ample opportunity to go rock-hounding with her siblings. Hannah has enjoyed searching for crinoid stems and gryphaea at both Red Lake near Cody and Red Gulch Dinosaur Track site in the Big Horn Basin. Gretchen Hurley Since graduating from the University of Wyoming, Gretchen Hurley has worked as an environmental scientist and geologist for the past 38 years. She began her career in the oil field working throughout the Rocky Mountain West, and since then, has worked in the fields of synthetic fuels research, groundwater restoration, water quality sampling and analysis, and water rights adjudication. Since 2004, she has worked full time for the Bureau of Land Management as a Geologist, managing the solid minerals, abandoned mine lands, and paleontology programs for the Cody Field Office, as well as participating in land use planning, and public outreach. She is also a licensed Wyoming Professional Geologist. She loves working with people of all ages to promote a love of nature and appreciation for the outdoors. Sunday Schuh Sunday is in 7th grade and lives with her family in her native town of Cody, Wyoming. Even as a child Sunday was struck by the natural beauty of Wyoming. She loves long-distance running, cross country skiing, hiking, biking and camping, but her biggest love is alpine skiing. On most winter weekends she can be found at Cody's local ski area, Sleeping Giant, where she first started skiing at the age of 4. Dan Wenk Dan Wenk worked for the National Park service for 35 years. He began his career in 1975 as a landscape architect at the Denver Service Center. From 1985-2001, Wenk was superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. And in 2011, he took the helm at Yellowstone National Park, America's first national park, established in 1872. Wenk retired in 2018. Wenk's career accomplishments have been recognized with numerous awards, including the Meritorious Service Award, the second highest honor awarded by the Department of the Interior. Wenk earned a bachelor of landscape architecture from Michigan State University.Photo Wyoming Public Media Explore More For additional information, vocabulary definitions, activities and more click here! Transcript NARRATOR: Welcome to the Kids Ask WhY podcast, where kids ask the questions. This is a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. MOLLY STANTON: Hi, my name is Molly Stanton and I live in Green River, Wyoming. HANNAH BERTALOT: Hi, my name is Hannah Bertalot. I live in Cody, Wyoming. SUNDAY SCHUH: Hi, I'm Sunday Shuh, and I live in Cody, Wyoming. Today we're talking about Wyoming's public lands. Molly, what are you talking about today? MOLLY: Today, I'm talking about how I use the public lands. Typically in my family, we go hunting. I grew up hunting and it is my favorite way to use the public lands. It's a great way to spend time with family and put food on our table. Hannah, what are you going to be talking about today? HANNAH: My specific topic today is geology. One time when I was going to Yellowstone, we saw hoodoos, which are the curvy rocks with holes in them. Then when we arrived, we looked at the Grand Prismatic. There were also smaller geothermal features nearby. Sunday, what are you talking about today? SUNDAY: Today I'm talking about Yellowstone and how tourism has affected the environment in Yellowstone. I've lived near Yellowstone almost my entire life. And I love almost everything about the park. I have so many great experiences like seeing the Old Faithful of the Grand Prismatic pool, and I would hate to see something like the great aspects of Yellowstone be dispersed because of human actions like tourism HANNAH: Hi, my name is Hannah Bertalot. I live in Cody, Wyoming. I'm speaking with Gretchen Hurley, a geologist for the Bureau of Land Management. I'm speaking with her today because she knows a lot about the geology of Wyoming. I'm interested in rocks and mountains. These are an important part of Wyoming's landscapes. So for the first question, are the majority of the mountains in Wyoming on public lands? Is this important? GRETCHEN HURLEY: Yep. Virtually all of our major mountain ranges are located on public lands and that means either Forest Service administered lands or lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, who I work for, so those are what you consider public lands. There are portions of certain mountain ranges that are not located on public lands. Half of the State of Wyoming is publicly administered, which means, of course, that it belongs to the American people. So, it's great because those mountains are more accessible for folks to enjoy. HANNAH: How did the Rocky Mountains form? Well, the point in Wyoming? Photo: Mack H. Frost GRETCHEN: The formation of the Rocky Mountains began about 100 million years ago, during a period of mountain building called the "sevier orogeny" and continued through 40 million years ago, primarily during an episode of mountain building called the "laramide orogeny". Most of Wyoming's mountain ranges formed during the laramide time, which was the result of really deep crustal compression caused by plate tectonic motions, primarily called subduction–where one tectonic plate slides underneath another. In this case, we had the Farallon Plate on the west side, diving beneath the North American plate. It's almost as if Wyoming-the area that we now call Wyoming-was being squeezed in a gigantic vice. And over time, those mountain ranges were subject to some really powerful erosional forces like running water, wind, ice, Alpine glaciers, and gravity. And those forces of erosion continue today, providing the beautiful scenery that we enjoy in Wyoming's mountains and basins as well. HANNAH: So my next question is, where is the tallest mountain in Wyoming? GRETCHEN: The tallest mountain in Wyoming is called Gannett Peak. And it's located in the Wind River range of west central Wyoming. It's named Gannett Peak, which measures 13,810 feet above sea level. So that's our highest mountain in the whole state of Wyoming. And it was named for a man named Henry Gannett, who is a famous American geographer and he helped form the United States Geological Survey and the National Geographic Society in the late 1800s. So he's a famous geographer and he did so much work to help the state of Wyoming and its geography and mapping that they named the tallest peak in Wyoming after him– Henry Gannett, Gannett Peak in the Wind River mountains. HANNAH: Okay, so, I have like one extra question. Can you explain how the Hoodoos are formed? GRETCHEN: Those hoodoos west of Cody, Wyoming, on the forest are in the Absaroka Mountains and they are fascinating to look at, aren't they Hannah? They're located about 27 miles west of Cody. Once you get up onto the Shoshone National Forest, you drive west to turn out to the place called Holy City. I think that's the area you're asking about, where you have this really cool array of different rock shapes that have been carved into the andesite which is the volcanic rock. It's a combination of lots of different rock sized particles, as well as lots of varieties of cementation or the way the rock is held together. And at Holy City, it's really cool because you can look on the skyline and see how detailed and fragile really these erosional forms are like the "goose rock" and "old woman in her cabin". It's really fun to study those and try to figure out how they formed. Enjoy them now because a lot of them are so fragile, they won't be around for a whole lot longer. So Hannah, can you please share with us how you became interested in geology and mountains in particular? HANNAH: I developed my interest in geology and mountains because when I was younger, and now, we visit Yellowstone a lot, and I know that people, people aren't like respecting. So I want to help protect when I get old enough to. GRETCHEN: I'm glad you're interested in it. And hopefully someday you'll maybe want to pursue geology as a career because it's fascinating. HANNAH: Before I spoke with Gretchen, I felt there was very little to know about geology in Wyoming. After I spoke with her, I knew there is tons to know about geology and why it is important to protect the public lands because there could be valuable geologic resources. There's also wildlife that lives on public lands. There can be endangered species disturbed or hurt by tourists or pedestrians. It is important to protect the land because it can save an endangered species. Some of the rules that protect the wildlife should be enforced for this reason. MOLLY: Hi, my name is Molly Stanton and I live in Green River, Wyoming. I'm speaking with Joshua Corsey, the founder and CEO of the Muley Fanatic Foundation. I'm speaking with him because his organization is committed to protecting wild places and the wild animals in them. I want to get Josh's perspective on why public lands are so important to the wildlife and people that live in Wyoming. Um, first question, why are the public lands so important to you specifically? JOSHUA COURSEY: Public lands really embodies the very word of freedom, in my mind. Even though I'm a Wyoming native, and it wasn't until I had been to other places, and had seen something that I had just taken for granted. So for me, when I think about public lands, and particularly in western Wyoming, where we have so much of it, it truly is what, as I stated before, what embodies the very word of freedom. Our ability to be able to wander, to be able to go and enjoy, not only outdoor recreational opportunities, but just the wild things and wild places that living out west affords us and they're world class in Wyoming in my opinion. MOLLY: I agree with you completely. And I don't know if you covered this a lot already, but what part of the public lands do you think is the most important? JOSHUA: I'm still, in some regards, I'm just old school in the fact that I like to be able to access places within public lands that you can get to a hilltop or you can get somewhere where you're not able to pick out any man made structures. Those areas are definitely becoming far and fewer in between. But I really enjoy that. It gives me a sense of that what it must have been like to be a part of the frontier years ago, to know that you're still on an unchanged landscape from what it was potentially 150 years ago, and the westward development of mankind. Those places still exist and we're very lucky in Wyoming, we still have a few of them and it takes work to maintain that. MOLLY: Yeah, I agree with you. And why do you think hunting is so important in our community like on the public lands? Photo: Mack H. Frost JOSHUA: Certainly access is a big one. There are many states where there's very little public land, particularly back east, either you're a part of a hunting club, or you're part of an association that allows for access on private land through some sort of membership fee. And that's just not a way of life for what we know to be the norm in western Wyoming particularly. But I think what makes hunting so important is that hunting when you really think about it, especially when you look at the North American model of conservation, is that wildlife belongs to the residents of Wyoming. And so hunting is a tool of conservation. For us to be able to participate in those conservation efforts administered by the managers of our wildlife in Wyoming- the Wyoming Game and Fish Department- I think that's the role of the public to be engaged in a duty of civic responsibility. So, for me, hunting is beyond just the recreational enjoyment that I have, or the the effort to want to put clean organic meat on the table as a staple to our family diet. But I think it's the role that we get to participate in in the effort of conservation MOLLY:That was a lot of information. JOSHUA: Probably a lot more than you wanted. MOLLY: Yeah, no, it's a good answer, though. It made a lot of sense. Um, and with your job, do you think that you work most to conserve land or the animals and why? JOSHUA: So they go hand in hand. Certainly when you look at the critters and carrying capacity of the landscape, that is certainly tied to stainability of the overall population objectives and the overall health of such populations. So really, it's a matter of both. I mean, certainly when you look at the landscape, much like you learned in hunters education, there are very key components that are required for the animal to be able to be sustainable– shelter and cover and of course, the right quality of forbes and forage and water and access and being able to have those movements. MOLLY: Thank you so much, you answered all my questions. JOSHUA: Very good questions. MOLLY: After talking to Josh, I would describe public lands as being crucial and amazing. Public lands are important to people that hunt for many reasons, one of them being that it gives hunters access to thousands of acres of land to be able to explore. Another reason is that if there was no public lands, the hunters would be very limited on the areas. Finally, hunters are very grateful for the public lands because of the abundance of wildlife that is offered. SUNDAY: Hi I am Sunday Shuh and I live in Cody, Wyoming. I'm speaking with Dan Wenk the former superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. I'm speaking with him because Yellowstone was the first national park and has millions of visitors every year. I wanted to learn how all these visitors are affecting the natural places of Yellowstone. So over the last 50 years has there been a significant spike in tourism in Yellowstone? DAN WENK: You know, I think over the last 50 years, you can see where it's grown about 3-5%, well 3.5% on average year over year for the past 50 years. But in the summer of 2016 and 2017, there was a significant spike, it went up about 17%, just in those two years. I think it's starting to level out again, but tourism was always one of the main aspects of why Yellowstone, if you will, was created. And why they turned over the development of the visitor facilities to the railroads companies. It was about promoting tourism to the Park and to the West. SUNDAY: And what effect has that had on Yellowstone and the wildlife, and the natural, the geysers, and everything? Photo: Mack H. Frost DAN: Well, one of the great things about Yellowstone is it's over almost two and a quarter million acres in size. Primarily the tourism industry or the tourists that come to Yellowstone, they spend most of their time within about a half mile of the paved roads and developed areas in Yellowstone National Park. So overall, it has an effect, but it doesn't have an effect that's really going to change Yellowstone a lot. Now, in order to accommodate up to 4 million visits a year, there has been significant development in the primary resource areas of Yellowstone because that's what people come to see. They come to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, they come to see Old Faithful and the geysers, they come to the Geyser Basin. So a lot of development occurs in those areas. And it has to be done very carefully, because those are incredibly fragile environments. We believe that 80% of people who visit Yellowstone National Park go to Old Faithful and see the Old Faithful geyser in the Geyser Basin on a particular visit. So that has an effect of extreme crowding in those areas of Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with wolves in the Lamar Valley- that's getting more crowded, Norris Geyser Basin. All those areas have to be managed very carefully to ensure we don't destroy the resources that people are coming especially to see. SUNDAY: Yeah. Okay. And then what do you see the future of the park looking like as far as tourism? DAN: You know, I think one of the things we're doing now is we're trying very hard to understand what the level of tourism or level of visitation to the park, and the impact that has on the visitor experience, as well as the resources of the park. One of the relatively new emerging areas of visitation is Grand Prismatic. And if you've not been on it, we built a new trail so people can get a bird's eye view of Grand Prismatic Spring so they can appreciate it. But the day we opened that trail, it was overfull. I mean, we had more people on the trail, and we had more people competing for spaces in the parking lot. So we can't build ourselves out of the problem. What we have to do is we have to work with visitors, we have to look at how they visit the park, we have to look at different solutions around transportation. I don't know how a transportation system will work, but we've developed a transportation system for the winter. So perhaps there's something that can be done in the summer. You know, we've tried to extend the season so people could visit for a longer period of time and perhaps get some of the concentration in the summer months lower, and extended it into the spring in the fall. All of those things offer some part of a solution. But there's no one thing that can be done in order to alleviate the crush of visitors that happens in Yellowstone in the summer. SUNDAY: Okay. And what actions have the National Park Service taken to increase or decrease tourism over the last 10 years? DAN: Over the last 10 years? I would say we've done very little. I think one of the things that you've seen in the park is (this hasn't been to increase or decrease but it's been to accommodate the visitors) the National Park Service working with our concessionaires, Xanterra and Delaware North who are the two primary concessionaires, have spent a lot of time, energy, and money improving the visitor facilities. Probably the other biggest thing that's been done is the road system, which Yellowstone was built in the early 1900s. That road system has been improved dramatically. If you've been in the park which I'm sure you have many times, you've been in what we call wildlife jams. they could be they can be bears, they can be wolves, they can be elk, they can be deer, they can be anything that will attract a large number of people. So we're trying to build more pullouts and improve the road system throughout the park in order to accommodate those visitors who are visiting Yellowstone. SUNDAY: Okay. All right. Great answers. Thanks for talking to me today. DAN: That's it? You're easy. SUNDAY: Thank you. Before I spoke with Mr Wenk, I thought what an amazing and beautiful place. After I spoke with Mr. Wenk, I thought what an insanely large and amazing and beautiful place worth protecting. Yellowstone National Park is a truly spectacular display of nature- spouting geysers, bubbling mud pots and abundant wildlife. Yellowstone was the first national park founded in at 1872. So it's been around for quite a while and it's worth preserving. We need to make sure this spectacular site is around for many years so our children and grandchildren can see this magnificent place and all it has to offer. NARRATOR: Thanks for listening to this episode of Kids Ask why. If you want want to learn more about public lands about the geology about Yellowstone and tourism, or even about hunting on public lands in Wyoming. You can find more resources on our website at kidsaskwhy.org. Is there anything that you particularly love about public lands? Tell us why. Share your stories with us on Facebook and Twitter and again, thanks for listening. NARRATOR 2: This podcast is produced by Emily Buckles, Gretchen Henrich, Megan Smith, and Kirsten Arnold. Our executive producer is Kamila Kudelska. Levi Meyer and Anna Rader are our digital consultants. Kids Ask Why is the production of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and Wyoming Public Media.
Beatrice O'Toole and Keller Dehmel join forces to tell the audience about two reasons Wyoming has a high rate of tourism. In doing so, they share some of their favorite things about the state where they live. Beatrice O'Toole, a seven-year-old from Laramie, Wyoming, kicks the episode off by interviewing Jim Woodmencey, a meteorologist from Mountain Weather in Jackson Hole, about snow. Jim provides Beatrice with the run-down on why snow lasts so long in Wyoming. Keller Dehmel, a ten-year-old from Ten Sleep, Wyoming, spends the second half of this episode with Michael Poland, a Yellowstone geophysicist, discussing one of the main attractions in Wyoming: Old Faithful. By the end, Keller can tell you exactly why Old Faithful is called Old Faithful. Beatrice O'Toole Beatrice is seven years old and in second grade. She loves reading, swimming, camping, and arts & crafts. She has two basset hounds and a black cat. Beatrice has been to thirteen states and is learning to speak Spanish in school. She is in Girl Scouts and earned her Daisy Summit Award this summer. Her favorite food is macaroni and cheese and her current favorite color is red. Jim Woodmencey After earning a B.S. in Meteorology from Montana State University in 1982, Jim moved to Jackson Hole, WY. There he spent 14 summers working as a Climbing Ranger for Grand Teton National Park and 20 winters as a helicopter ski-guide in Jackson. Jim is presently the owner and chief meteorologist at Mountain Weather and has been forecasting for mountainous locations since 1991. In addition to his weather forecasting duties, Jim shares his combined interest in the mountains, weather and snow by teaching weather and avalanche courses to the public and the military. Learn more at www.mountainweather.com Keller Dehmel My name is Keller. I was born on 2-26-2010 in Worland, Wyoming. My hair is brown and my eyes are brown. My very earliest memory is opening a present on Christmas when I was 4. My very favorite memory is smashing pumpkins after Halloween with the family. My favorite sport is wrestling. I have been in U.S.A wrestling since I was three. My coach's name is Carl and he is the greatest coach ever. I have worked on his sheep ranch and he has a dog. I am very lucky because I have an awesome Mom and brother.Keller (left) and his brother in front of Old Faithful Mike Poland Mike is a research geophysicist with the Cascades Volcano Observatory and the current Scientist-in-Charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. His area of specialization is volcano geodesy, which emphasizes the surface deformation and gravity fields associated with volcanic activity. This work involves the use of space-based technologies, like Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), as well as ground-based techniques, like microgravity surveys. Mike has taken part in studies on a variety of volcanic systems in the United States, including Mount St. Helens and other volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest, Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes in Hawaii, and the Yellowstone caldera. His recent work has focused on using gravity change over time to understand the character of the fluids that drive volcanic unrest, and also on the potential of satellite data to improve forecasts of future changes in volcanic activity. Transcript NARRATOR: Welcome to Kids Ask Why where kids ask the questions. This is a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. BEATRICE O'TOOLE: My name is Beatrice; I live in Laramie. How old are you? KELLER DEHMEL: My name is Keller Dehmel, and I am 10 years old. How old are you? BEATRICE: I'm 7. Today we are going to explore the topic of why people visit Wyoming. What do you want to learn about? KELLER: I want to learn about Old Faithful. What do you want to learn about? BEATRICE: I want to learn about snow. I want to learn about snow because I like snow and I don't know much about it. Why do you want to learn about Old Faithful? KELLER: I want to learn about Old Faithful because it is a mystery. There are a lot of things I don't know about it. BEATRICE: Sort of like mine. Have you ever been to Old Faithful? KELLER: Yes, I have, and since I do Aikido I have done poses in front of it, in my karate outfit. What is your favorite memory of snow, Bea? BEATRICE: When I first learned to ski, or when I first played in the snow, or one time when we were at our old house the snow was really tall that our dog had to jump through it. BEATRICE: I am interested in snow so I am speaking with Jim Woodmency. I am interviewing Jim because he is a meteorologist. Jim is the owner and founder of Mountain Weather and he has been forecasting weather in Jackson Hole and the Teton Mountains since 1991. BEATRICE: What is the difference between hail and snow? JIM WOODMENCEY: It gets sent back up into the cloud, way up high to the top of the cloud almost. So it goes high enough in the atmosphere so it passes through the freezing level, in other words where it's below freezing temperatures where it turns into like a little ice ball. Then that ice ball falls down, gets near the bottom of the cloud again and then an updraft takes it back up. So it gets another coating of water on it, gets sent back up high into the cloud where it's really cold, gets a coating of ice on it and it keeps doing that until the hailstone grows big enough to fall out of the cloud. A snowflake is just an ice crystal and they're in a more pure form. So, they may be moving up and down through the cloud but the entire cloud temperatures are all basically below freezing. So, it just stays as an ice crystal or a nice snowflake like we would see falling onto the ground. BEATRICE: Can snow knock down trees? JIM: Yes. When you see that most often is in the spring or early fall when trees have a lot of leaves on them and they're generally weak, so you get a lot of broken branches and things like that. So, heavy, wet snow can break branches on trees, or some smaller trees, or trees that are maybe not very healthy and dying. You get enough weight from the snow on the tree limbs, it's sticking to the tree limbs or the leaves or the branches then it can break the trees or bring the trees down. So, yes that's true. BEATRICE: How long does snow last in Laramie? JIM: In Laramie? (chuckles) When it doesn't blow away? It can stay on the ground for a long time. A lot of that depends on how dense the snow is. In other words, how much water it has in it. How heavy it is, and how cold the temperatures are. So, when you build up a foot or two of snow on the ground, that snow is very hard especially if it's windblown or wind-drifted snow. That's very, very, very dense snow, in other words, it's like concrete or cement. And it can stay on the ground for a long time, and it can sustain above freezing temperatures for several days before it will melt. But again, it depends on how hard the snow is and also how deep the snow is. That will determine how long it can stay on the ground. As long as it's below freezing temperatures it will stay there, but if the temperatures go above freezing it will start to melt. BEATRICE: Can snow push stuff down into the ground? JIM: What stuff? Bugs? Grass? BEATRICE: Maybe houses? Photo from PBS Video "Blizzard of '49" JIM: Well, that's a good question. I don't think so, but you get enough heavy snow accumulation, build up of snow up on your roof, and you can get the roof to collapse. So, structurally it depends on how well-built your house is, I suppose. You see a lot of roofs collapse in the wintertime from too much snow loading on them. BEATRICE: Does the snow melt around Old Faithful when it erupts? JIM: Right around where the vent is, the snow is melted most of the time. When it erupts, it depends on how much snow is there; it might melt away a little bit. But usually in the wintertime there is snow all around the Old Faithful geyser except for maybe 10 feet out, 15-feet out, right around where the geyser comes out of the ground. BEATRICE: Thank you. JIM: That's it? BEATRICE: Mmm...hmmm JIM: Okay, that was good. Thank you for the questions. BEATRICE: Mmm...hmmm JIM: Do you like snow, Bea? BEATRICE: Yeah. When I started skiing lessons I thought I didn't learn how...I thought I didn't know how to ski, but fortunately I knew how to ski and it just took me two lessons to move up. JIM: Yep, you'll get better and better every year. So, keep it up. It's a fun sport. BEATRICE: Thank you. BEATRICE: Before I spoke with my expert, I thought snow and hail in Wyoming were formed the same way. After I spoke with my expert, I thought snow and hail in Wyoming were a bit different because snow falls straight down, and hail goes up and down the clouds until it gets heavy enough it falls down. The snow in Wyoming lasts so long, because it gets cold. It's cold because Wyoming has lots of mountains. The higher you get the colder it gets. Snow lasts longer in the mountains where not as many people live. KELLER: I am interested in Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, so I am speaking with Michael Poland. I am interviewing Michael because he is a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey and Scientist in charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. When was Old Faithful discovered, and by who? MICHAEL POLAND: Well, Old Faithful has certainly been known for thousands of years by Native American tribes that worked in the area, lived in the area. But we don't know too much about that. We don't know their stories and legends. They just haven't been recorded, because they didn't have a written history. And then certainly the geyser had been seen by some of the fur trappers and mountain men of the early 1800s. But it was really well described starting with the scientific expeditions that really kicked off around 1870 or so. And it was named by a guy named Langford, Nathaniel Langford, who visited the area in 1870 as part of a really well known expedition to sort of map out the Yellowstone region. And they were some of the first to name some of the features in that area. Photo: Mack H. Frost KELLER: Interesting. When did scientists start timing Old Faithful, and when do they know when it is about to go off? MICHAEL: So the timing really started maybe about the time Langford visited Old Faithful about the time, in 1870, with this group called the Washburn Expedition. And there were a number of scientific expeditions that came right afterwards. And they started timing it and realizing it had a fairly consistent eruption interval and back then, it was about an hour between eruptions. And now it's actually close to an hour and a half between eruptions. So it changes over time, and in fact, we know that it changes due to some things like earthquakes, which probably changes the way the geyser plumbing system works, maybe breaks it down a little bit. And so after some strong earthquakes in the western US, we've seen changes in the interval between Old Faithful eruptions. KELLER: Hmmm. MICHAEL: So that the timing really probably started in the mid to late 1800s, and then people have been watching it ever since. And in terms of when they know it's going to erupt. There's two things. One is that there is a fairly consistent interval between Old Faithful eruptions. It's usually based on the duration of the previous eruption. So if there's a short eruption, there'll be a short time between the next eruption, but something like 98% of all Old Faithful eruptions right now have about an hour and a half between them. And there's always a little bit of play and small geysering before the big eruption. So right before Old Faithful erupts a few minutes before it's going to have its big eruption, there's sort of like a little bubbling. And so you can see the geyser just starts to play a little bit and then have its big eruption. So that's sort of an indicator that Old Faithful is about to erupt. KELLER: Okay. What is Old Faithful's average temperature and does it rise in the summer and lower in the winter. MICHAEL: So the temperature of Old Faithful is always the same. It's always boiling. So what drives that geyser activity is boiling water. And it's always, at that elevation, it's about 93 degrees centigrade. Normally at sea level water boils at 100 degrees centigrade, but in the Old Faithful area, it's high enough that the temperatures down a little bit, so it's about 93 degrees centigrade, or so. And that's the temperature of the water that comes out all the time, whether it's winter or summer, but it can cool very quickly, right, in the winter. As soon as that water comes out of the ground, especially sometimes it's well below zero, then the water cools very fast. In the summer it stays warmer for longer just because the temperatures are warmer, but the eruption temperature is always boiling. KELLER: Right. Okay. Where does water that shoots out of Old Faithful come from? MICHAEL: Well most of it is coming from snowmelt and rainfall. So the whole system there's sort of a porous layer. The ground is like a sponge in that area. KELLER: Hmmm. Interesting. MICHAEL: And so rain and snow that fall all around kind of get soaked up by the ground and then it gets erupted by the geyser. So ultimately, all of that water coming out of Old Faithful fell from the sky, either as rain or snow. KELLER: Thank you. That was all my questions. I really appreciate you being here. MICHAEL: Yeah, no problem. My pleasure. Geysers are spectacular things and they're just amazing to watch. Even when you've seen Old Faithful erupt, you know, tons of times it's still spectacular. And it's fun to sit there too and see everybody react to it because everyone's always dazzled. People start cheering when it erupts so it's an amazing natural sight. Have you seen Old Faithful erupt? KELLER: Yes, we have. Last year. My mom took five days off of work and we went and visited Old Faithful. MICHAEL: Pretty spectacular, huh? KELLER: Hmmm. Mmmm. MICHAEL: Yeah, that's something I never get tired of seeing. KELLER: Also something interesting was we did karate poses in front of Old Faithful in our karate gear. MICHAEL: Nice. There's a lot of good opportunities to take fun pictures in front of Old Faithful. It was fun chatting with you. Good questions. KELLER: After talking to my expert, the two words I would use to describe Old Faithful would be exciting and beautiful. I think Old Faithful is called Old Faithful because, like Michael said, Old Faithful was discovered in the 1800s that's what makes it old. Also it is faithful because it goes off every 90 minutes. That's what makes it faithful. KELLER & BEA: And that's why we asked why. Old Faithful Geyser photos courtesy of Mack H. Frost
Asking questions such as "WhY is Wyoming called the Equality State?" and "WhY are trout important to Wyoming's ecosystem?", each episode of the new Kids Ask WhY Podcast features two student-journalists attempting to answer their questions about Wyoming through interviews with experts. The simplicity and directness of the students' questions get right to the heart of some of Wyoming's challenges and treasures. The experts' answers and the students' conclusions shed new light on the modern American West for people young and old. On October 6th, we will release one episode weekly. Join us in learning why the kids of Wyoming think the state is special!