As a physics and computer science major at the University of Vermont, interning with a buffalo conservation group seemed way out of my expertise. I was coming to learn about something foreign- wildlife biology and environmental science. Although I had the chance to play around with the wildlife database and have fun looking at the programming behind it, the most valuable lessons learned were the ones in areas outside of my usual studies.
Through my time in Montana I learned how to identify buffalo tracks and read what they can tell us. I backcountry skied through Yellowstone and grew to recognize different plant and animal species. I was educated about the legal processes it takes to protect the beautiful wilderness surrounding us. I even watched as state and tribal hunters killed over a hundred buffalo throughout my week in Gardiner. All of these lessons helped shape my perspective not only on the injustices facing the buffalo herds, but on what I could do to help. It made me realize that I want to spend my life helping protect the land we live on, with the skills and abilities that I have. I was able to talk with national park officials, to see what future careers I could possibly strive for. Better still, by listening to everyone’s unique story at BFC, I have been encouraged to create my own path and live a life that is meaningful to me.
Now that I have returned home, I look back at my time at BFC as one of adventure, community, and learning. I miss the rustic log cabins overlooking Hebgen lake and the mountains. I can’t wait to return to the forests of West Yellowstone and once more follow the trails of the bison. I hope to return this summer as a volunteer or even an employee, and with this experience continue to carve out the life I envision for myself. But for now in Vermont, after only three weeks of tracking, protecting, and learning about the buffalo, I will continue to talk way too much for anyone who is willing to listen about what is happening in the state of Montana.