Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park starting in 1995 and since then have attracted plenty of researchers and wildlife-lovers. Penn State grad student Emily Almberg, a researcher with the Yellowstone Wolf Project, wants to bring those two groups together with an ambitious project: a "crowd sourced" website where wolf-watchers -- many of whom have elaborate photography equipment, natch –- can contribute their sighting information to further scientific study.
Almberg turned to the highly addictive "crowd funding" website Kickstarter.com for help. It's where the makers of Inocente, the documentary short that won an Oscar this past weekend, found funding. Inocente needed $50,000, while Almberg's's only asking for $7,000 -– and she’s already there. With 48 fundraising days remaining, contributors have pledged more than $8,400 as of Tuesday, February 26. Funds above the initial $7,000 will support the site's upkeep and expansion, so you can still chip in for the wolves.
Over the years, researchers have learned some fascinating things thanks to reintroduced Yellowstone wolves (which numbered 98 wolves in 10 packs -- plus two loners -- at the end of 2011). For instance, wolves are buffers against the effects of climate change: While milder winters result in fewer elk deaths and fewer food for scavengers (including bald eagles and grizzly bears), that's less of a problem in areas where wolves are free to hunt elk. For more, take a look at Mother Jones's succinct 10 Reasons We Need Wolves.
Image by iStock/JudiLen.
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan's second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb's Mr. Natural, who famously noted: "Twas ever thus."