Wyoming Spring Creek Field Studies

The Spring Creek Field Studies Program is designed for: Geology, Ecology, Biology, Environmental Science and Environmental Studies students. There are no formal pre-requisites and the program is open to all majors. For this program it would be helpful, not required, if you’ve previously taken courses in Geology or Ecology. The goal of this program is that you will develop an understanding of the complex geological, biological, and historical processes that shape the landscape, habitats, and natural and human communities that you see today. This 6-week, 6-credit program course is a unique introduction to the practices of ecology, paleontology, and archaeology, with a strong emphasis on field techniques.

 

The program will focus on the rich resources of the University of Pittsburgh’s Spring Creek Preserve outside Laramie, WY, as well as the Medicine Bow, Laramie, and Vedauwoo mountains. The Spring Creek Preserve includes an intact, mixed-grass prairie, largely untouched beds of dinosaur and other fossils, and prehistoric Native American campsites. You will use the overall region to explore stream and terrestrial ecology; you will conduct surveys of plants, mammals, birds, and insects in these ecosystems; you discover dinosaur bones and marine fossils; and reconstruct the ancient environments In the midst of all of this, you discuss current issues facing the region, including water rights, cattle grazing, wind farms, and economic development.  Finally, you will embark on a hiking and camping trip around the state to consolidate and expand what you learned in southeastern Wyoming.  This trip includes stops at many natural wonders, including those of Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons.

 

What You'll Accomplish: 

As an engaged and active participant in this program, you will have the opportunity to develop:

  • An understanding of the rich resources of Laramie Basin, Laramie Mountains and Medicine Mountains of Wyoming and the surrounding region
  • A foundational understanding of the complex geological, biological, paleontological and historical processes that have shaped Wyoming
  • Knowledge on water rights, cattle grazing and economic development

 

Most of the time this program is based in and around Laramie, Wyoming region. Students will frequently visit Allen L. Cook Spring Creek Preserve located a short drive west of the small town of Rock River, WY. The property is a sprawling 6000-acre tract that embraces pristine dinosaur-bone-bearing beds, 9,000 years of Native American archaeology, native prairie ecosystems, and a section of the original grade of the 1869 trans-continental railroad. There are even the remains of an old ghost town on the property.  The Preserve includes prominent exposures of the Jurassic Morrison Formation, which contains some of the most famous dinosaurs in the world.  In fact, the finest example of Diplodocus carnegii, whose skeleton resides in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, was unearthed from a site only about 30 miles north.  Unlike many dinosaur sites, the Spring Creek Preserve was left untouched during the great Western U.S. excavations of the 19th and 20th centuries.  As such, students can see much what the original dinosaur prospectors saw when searching for the next big specimen.

 

Considerable time is also spent working in the high elevation Snowy Range/Medicine Bow Mountains located west of Laramie, WY the lower-elevation Laramie Mountains to the east and the Vedauwoo Recreational Area to the south The Snowy Mountains feature peaks up to 12,000’, crystal-clear mountain lakes jumping with fish, and year-around snow fields.  Vedauwoo is famous for striking outcrops of granite that are great for hiking and rock climbing. The 10-day trip around the state at the end of the class typically visits sites in or around Lander, Thermopolis, the Bighorn Mountains, the Bighorn Basin, the Absaroka Mountains, Yellowstone, and the Tetons.

 

Temperatures and precipitation vary based on the season. Weather near Rock River and Laramie, Wyoming can still be unpredictable in June. The temperatures average 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 35-55 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Temperatures cool off at night and there’s also always potential for rain. It is a good idea to pack a light, waterproof/resistant jacket. 

 

Where You'll Live: 

In Laramie, Wyoming students will live on campus at the University of Wyoming. You will live in double-occupancy dorms in the heart of the campus. During your time here in Laramie, you will have access to a variety of campus buildings including the cafeteria. Campus is also very centrally located and a short walk to the main street in town with restaurants, coffee shops and shopping.

  • Double-occupancy
  • Shared dormitory bathrooms
  • Bedding, bed linens
  • Tables or desks and chairs
  • Dresser, wardrobe or closet
  • Wi-Fi

On the trip around the state, you will camp at various sites, you will stay at the K-Z Guest Lodge east of Yellowstone; www.kbarzguestranch.com ). At the K-Z Ranch you can expect the following at the cabins:

  • Log cabins that accommodate 2 to 4 students each or in a larger log structure with two large rooms, each of which host 5-6 people
  • Hot-and-cold running water and showers.
  • The main lodge of the guest ranch features a comfortable common area with a wood-burning stove, TV, games, and books.
  • Meals are included

Finally you will stay at the University of Wyoming-National Park Service Research Station http://uwnps.org ) on the shores of Jackson Lake in full view of the Tetons! you can expect the following at the cabins:

  • Rustic log cabins that accommodate 4 to 6 students per room
  • Communal bathroom
  • Wi-Fi
  • Kitchen with refrigerator, stove, microwave, coffee maker, pots, pans dishes and basic cooking supplies/utensils
  • Breakfast and lunches will often be prepared from groceries packed into coolers.  You will eat most dinners at restaurants and the cost of the dinner is included in the cost of the program.

We do our best to provide the most accurate information about housing and amenities but due to the nature of the locations in which we offer programs and limited availability, these items are subject to change.  Contact your program manager with any questions. 

 

What You'll Study: 

You'll earn a total of 6 credits on the Spring Creek Field Studies Program. Everyone who participates on the program will take the same course. The Spring Creek Field Studies course is taught by local Pittsburgh faculty, but also by local guest lecturers. All faculty have backgrounds in ecology, geology, paleontology or anthropology. On this program students will take daily hikes and will see abundant wildlife and spectacular geology. Trip highlights include visits to natural wonders such as Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. You will spend most of the time in the field gathering, analyzing, and interpreting field observations. In these courses you will study:

  • The ecosystems of the Laramie Basin, Laramie Mountains, and Medicine Bow Mountains
  • Dinosaur bones, fossils, ancient environments and Native American hearths
  • Water rights, cattle grazing and economic development

If you are seeking to count these courses towards a major, minor or certificate, please meet with your academic advisor to discuss this program and what the courses will fulfill for you. Information about how the courses on this program count towards general education requirements for different schools and campuses can be found here.

 

Wyoming Field Studies in Geology and Paleontology (GEOL1951)

This class is one-half of a 6-week field course that, in conjunction with GEOL 1950, provides a spectacular, in-depth introduction to the practices of ecology, paleontology, and (to a lesser extent) archaeology.  There is a strong emphasis on field techniques and applying what you have learned to understand how nature works. This program focuses on the rich resources of Pitt's Spring Creek Preserve outside Laramie, WY, which includes pristine beds of dinosaur fossils, Native American artifacts, and an intact, mixed-grass prairie. We explore ecological systems ranging from prairie grasslands to alpine pine forests to rushing streams to mountain snowfields; we study the abundant and diverse mammals, birds, insects, and aquatic organisms of the region; we excavate dinosaurs and find and document Native American artifacts; we reconstruct ancient environments revealed by rock outcrops and the fossils they contain; we discuss water rights, cattle grazing, wind farms, and economic development; and we experience a amazing array of natural wonders while on a hiking and camping trip around Wyoming that includes Yellowstone and the Tetons.  You will develop a deep understanding of the complex geological, biological, and historical processes that shape the landscape, habitats, and natural and human communities that we see today, and you will be able to apply the principles and techniques of this class to gradually reveal the deep history of any place you visit.  Students must enroll in GEOL 1950 and GEOL 1951 concurrently.
 

Wyoming Field Studies in Ecology (GEOL1950)

This class is one-half of a 6-week field course that, in conjunction with GEOL 1951, provides a spectacular, in-depth introduction to the practices of ecology, paleontology, and (to a lesser extent) archaeology.  There is a strong emphasis on field techniques and applying what you have learned to understand how nature works. This program focuses on the rich resources of Pitt's Spring Creek Preserve outside Laramie, WY, which includes pristine beds of dinosaur fossils, Native American artifacts, and an intact, mixed-grass prairie. We explore ecological systems ranging from prairie grasslands to alpine pine forests to rushing streams to mountain snowfields; we study the abundant and diverse mammals, birds, insects, and aquatic organisms of the region; we excavate dinosaurs and find and document Native American artifacts; we reconstruct ancient environments revealed by rock outcrops and the fossils they contain; we discuss water rights, cattle grazing, wind farms, and economic development; and we experience a amazing array of natural wonders while on a hiking and camping trip around Wyoming that includes Yellowstone and the Tetons.  You will develop a deep understanding of the complex geological, biological, and historical processes that shape the landscape, habitats, and natural and human communities that we see today, and you will be able to apply the principles and techniques of this class to gradually reveal the deep history of any place you visit.  Students must enroll in GEOL 1950 and GEOL 1951 concurrently.
 

Your Pitt Study Abroad Contacts: 

Tim Crawford

Hi Everyone! I’m Tim, and I am the Assistant Director for Domestic Study Away Programming. I have experience running international study abroad programs and programs here at home in the United States. I was fortunate to have many experiential learning opportunities, both international and domestic, during my college career. Being from a small town in Central Pennsylvania, my experiences opened my eyes to the rest of the world and helped open my eyes to different cultures and career opportunities I’d love to help you take advantage of the numerous experiential learning opportunities here at Pitt. Outside of the office, I’m always looking for the next adventure. I love traveling, hate sitting still and love doing anything outdoors, in all seasons. Personally, my family and I are on a quest to visit as many national parks as possible. I’d love to talk to you more about any of our study away programs, answer any of your questions and help you find the right opportunity. Please reach me via email at timcrawford@pitt.edu

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Your In-Country Contacts: 

Mandi Lyon

Mandi is an expert in paleobotany and Wyoming geology who works at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.  She has conducted extensive field research in Wyoming, and she has taught this class since 2008.

Kyle Whittinghill

Dr. Kyle Whittinghill is a lecturer in environmental science at the University of Pittsburgh.  She got her B.S. from Middlebury College in biology, with minors in chemistry and mathematics, and her Ph.D. in soil sciences from the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota.  She completed post-doctoral research projects at the University of Michigan and the University of New Hampshire.  Her teaching portfolio includes three years teaching ecology, environmental science, and statistics at St. Olaf College and Colorado College and, since joining the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 environmental geochemistry and writing on campus and field classes in Wyoming and Puerto Rico.  She was awarded (along with Danielle Andrews-Brown) a major innovation in education grant to incorporate evidence-based modern teaching methods into Pitt’s environmental science classes.

Items Billed by Pitt

  In-State Out-of-State
Program Cost $6,000 $6,200
Study Away Fee $300 $300
Total Billed by Pitt $6,300 $6,500

Estimated Additional Out-of-Pocket Costs (not billed by pitt)

Airfare $500
Personal Expenses $250
   

Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while away.  Visit our Budgeting page for more information.

What's Included: 

As a part of your program fee, the following are included:

  • 6-Credits of tuition
  • Accommodations
  • Most meals
  • Equipment
  • Transportation around Wyoming
  • Visits to: Yellowstone National Park & Grand Tetons National Park, Laramie Basin, Laramie Mountains and Medicine Bow Mountains

 

What Else You Need to Know: 
  • This program takes place at higher elevations. Field trips also include long hikes, often strenuous, at altitudes above 10,000 feet. These hikes may be full-day hikes where you begin after breakfast, pack your lunch, and return to your accommodations at dinner time. 
  • Due to the nature of the program, the schedule is subject to change. There may be instances where a guest speaker or field excursion needs to be rescheduled. We ask for your patience and understanding in advance.
  • Remember that this is an academic program and that you should expect to invest the same amount of time and effort on this course as you would on a course at Pitt. 
  • Mandatory trips. Independent travel cannot conflict with fieldwork. Independent travel may be better before or after the program.