Senior Jackson Bates was chosen out of over 200 applicants to study climate change in a hands-on internship in the national park home to North America’s tallest peak.
He worked in terrains of conifer forests and the tundra and assisted in collecting and recording data about five rare species found at Denali National Park to understand how alpine animal species in the park are responding to climate change.
He studied climate change in a place where climate change is having a strong impact. Bates worked as a field assistant for a graduate student at the University of Montana.
During the internship, Bates hiked approximately 15 miles a day and collected data about the ptarmigan (a type of bird), collared pika, marmot, arctic ground squirrel and dall sheep to see where they lived and if, or how, they are migrating in response to their climate changing.
He would record any sign of the animal species including scat, burrows and sightings ofthe individuals. They would also use acoustic identification to record species by listening for marmot and pika calls.
Bates found this internship online and brought it to associate professor of biology
Ramesh Laungani to see if it was a good fit for him.
Bates said that Laungani got him interested in how biodiversity is affecting climate change, and vice versa, and that this internship was the perfect opportunity for him.
“I got pretty lucky in finding it (the internship),” Bates said. Laungani recommended Bates for this internship.
“I was recommending Jackson because I saw him do science (in his classes) and that’s what is important in that position,” Laungani said. “There was no hesitation in recommending Jackson enthusiastically.”
Laungani said that he sees Jackson coming back and wanting to make progress on his senior project and that he is mapping details that he is doing now by instinct were probably magnified by his experience in Denali.
“He is able to articulate the realities of climate change more in a way other students who haven’t had this experience can’t,” Laungani said.
In an article released on the Doane University website about Bates’ internship, professor of environmental science professor Russ Souchek also commented on this opportunity for Bates.
“His experience this summer has allowed him to apply what he is doing in the classroom, experiencing the impacts of climate change in the real world and its impact on habitats, wildlife and the citizens of Alaska,” Souchek said.
Bates will graduate in December after presenting his senior research project, which also involves climate change. He wants to continue to study ecology after graduation.