Today I bid my beloved Yellowstone adieu and drive 7.5 hours (it’s actually 10 for me since I drive slower than molasses in January) to see my friend in Fort Collins, Colorado for a few days. After that, we drive back east together. Leaving here makes me feel ill. I don’t want to go. I’m so thankful I have something exciting to do after this or else I would sulk all the way back to New York. Yesterday I made it clear to Deb that I wanted to return next year so at least I won’t be gone forever. I may have to do the backpacking trips though–which are even more physically demanding and treacherous–but a bad day out here is better than a good day anywhere else. As I packed up, Deb and Andrew surveyed a site near the Lake Lodge where there had been notable tadpole die-offs in previous years. I wish I could tell you the source of these die-offs but for now it remains a mystery. While they were gone, I scattered soap and love notes about people’s rooms and by the time they had returned–with good news of no amphibian deaths noted–I was all packed and ready to go. We exchanged contact information, Andrew and I shook hands (which we both agreed that I need more practice doing–a good, firm handshake speaks volumes!) and Deb sadly stood on the porch and mournfully watched as I pulled away from the dorm. It was hard looking back at her in the rear view mirror. I could see her waving and it made it that much harder for me to leave. I visited the Fishing Bridge general store one last time for a sandwich and a no-bake cookie, of course. Then I choked back my tears and headed off to Colorado.
Words cannot describe my love for Yellowstone or how much I wish my summer there could last forever. It’s actually been several weeks since I left and I can only now write about it. And I do so with tears in my eyes. I can only hope that I make it back next summer and that it remains as wonderful as I left it. Ironically, my mother is getting ready for a 14-day trip out there and one of my 2006 field partners is also going back for a conference in October. I’m jealous of them both and am trying not to eat so I can fit inside their luggage. Deb emailed me a few days ago to say my bunk looked lonely without me and the place just doesn’t feel the same. Ugh! It tugs at me something fierce. As far as specifics about the amphibian situation in the greater Yellowstone region goes, it’s hard to say because this years data has not been examined yet. I will say that there was a noticeable decline in amphibian numbers from the field perspective, however, I cannot say if there’s any statistical significance to that. Time will tell. In the future, amphibian numbers will depend on, strangely enough, beaver and the wetland habitats they create, disease, and also the ever-changing climatic conditions. We shall see… Their fate remains to be unseen but let us not forget how important they are. Amphibians are the indicators of environmental health. If they crash, everything eventually crashes. That’s why this monitoring project is ongoing and continues to receive funding. However, funding is being cut across the board for environmental research so if you happen to know a financially endowed ecology-lover with money to spare, please talk them into donating to the NRCC. This will ensure that crazy folks like me can continue doing insanely adventurous stuff in the name of science. And I promise to take you all along when I throw my hat into the ring again.