Summit High School students in Jackson, Wyoming have been enlisted in a Craighead Beringia South wildlife study. This particular study involves researching the area’s cougar habitats. The team of students were armed with compasses, good boots, a GPS device, extra batteries and Craighead Beringia South education director Marilyn Cuthill. Each of the students was given a compass and a refresher course on how to use it, while one student was designated to monitor the GPS navigation system.
The task assigned to the students was to go out into the cougar habitat and switch out batteries and memory cards in cameras strewn about the area. The cameras were placed there by the wildlife research institute, Craighead Beringia South, and include motion sensors which activate the cameras to capture local wildlife activity.
Over the past few months, there have been no images captured of cougars, but the cameras did catch moose, coyotes, raccoons and pine martens. They attempted to attract some cougars by spraying the cameras with Calvin Klein cologne, but only managed to attract some moose. The students noted that cameras placed further from paths and roads captured more wildlife and fewer humans walking their dogs.
Despite the lack of cougar spottings, the primary aspect of the project has been a success: getting teenagers to apply science and math problems in the real-world. “The overall purpose is to introduce these kids to research and how it’s conducted,” Marilyn Cuthill said. “Critters are cool… This is their backyard.”
“It gets us teens out and teaches us how to be careful and do studies,” explained Alex Howell, a 15-year-old sophomore. The project has also helped some students make friends with classmates they might not have otherwise befriended. “It gets us closer as a community,” Howell added.