The Prehistory of Greater Yellowstone lecture series, co-sponsored by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, concludes on Tuesday, July 21, with a presentation by Dr. Cathy Whitlock titled “Yellowstone’s Past, Yellowstone’s Future.”
The free talk begins at 6:15 p.m. July 21 in the Center of the West’s Coe Auditorium. A reception of light hors d’oeuvres with cash bar follows. Whitlock, internationally recognized for her scholarship and leadership in the subject of long-term environmental change, discusses Yellowstone’s fire and forest history over the past 15,000 years.
Looking specifically at the past 30 years, the western United States has experienced several severe and large fire events, starting with the Yellowstone fires of 1988. Whitlock asks, “How much of the current fire activity is caused by climate change and how much can be blamed on Smokey Bear and past forest management policies?”
To answer that question, Whitlock draws on her many years of research piecing together clues preserved in lake sediments. “This paleo-information is critical for understanding how ancient people, past climate change, and fires have shaped the Yellowstone landscape,” says Whitlock, “as well as for assessing the region’s vulnerability to climate change in the future.”
A Professor of Earth Sciences at Montana State University-Bozeman and the Co-Director of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems, Whitlock studies the history of forest ecosystems and their sensitivity to past climate, human activities, and fire. She has done research in Yellowstone National Park since 1979. After the 1988 fires there, she and her team developed analytical tools and modeling approaches now used by fire-history researchers around the world.
Whitlock holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from Colorado College, and a master’s degree and PhD in geological sciences from the University of Washington. She has published more than 150 scientific papers, and was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012. In 2014, Whitlock received the international E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award.
For more information on this lecture and other natural science programs, contact Draper Curatorial Assistant Bonnie Smith at [email protected] or 307-578-4020, or visit centerofthewest.org/explore/greater-yellowstone-natural-history/programs/.
Since 1917, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West. The Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. For additional information, visit centerofthewest.org or the Center’s Facebook page.