July 12 to 15: WRF Summer Retreat at Tensleep Preserve

For four sunny days, TNC’s Tensleep Preserve in Ten Sleep, WY set the scene for a gathering of researchers, land managers and students working on questions relevant to land management in the intermountain West. People came from near and far to participate in the retreat, flying in from California, North Dakota, Texas and Connecticut or driving in from Montana and Wyoming. The Western Research Fellowship Retreat is traditionally a time when the fellows get to share their work with the community and get feedback during their summer research. This year, we also gave them the opportunity to engage in a shared research endeavor.

The first two days of the retreat were dedicated to laying out plots and doing some soil sampling for Quick Carbon out on the Preserve. Some of the students also got to fly a drone for the first time!

Setting out plots for the soil sampling exercise.

Saturday has always been a big day at the Retreat. The morning started off with a short hike to collect Idaho fescue and Columbia needlegrass for a bison diorama that is being restored at the Peabody Museum in Yale University. Rachel Renne, an alum of the WRF program, led the way by identifying and flagging specimens which were then carefully dug up and wrapped in wet paper towels in preparation for shipping.

The grasses arrived safely in New Haven, CT and are now being dried at the Peabody Museum.

In the afternoon, we crossed a few creeks to hike to a majestic alcove on the Preserve. It was a treat to spot some mountain lion footprints in the soft sand at the same area – a reminder that the preserve is a shared space.

A few adventurous souls hiked a challenging 3 miles from the alcove up to the Cook’s Vee, visiting a swimming hole for a refreshing dip in the cold water along the way.

In the evening, the dinner crew whipped up a delicious BBQ spread with steaks, chicken, mash potatoes and grilled vegetables. A chocolate mousse awaited those who had room at the end. After dinner, Natalie Irwin and Seila De Leon, undergraduate engineering students who are building an in-field soil dryer for Quick Carbon, shared their latest prototype with the group.

Sunday marked the day where most people departed Ten Sleep with fond memories and new knowledge from their time together at the Retreat. The UHPSI staff and all who attended are deeply grateful for the warm hospitality of The Nature Conservancy (Wyoming), Trey Davis and Josh Criswell at the Preserve.

Sunset on the last evening of the retreat.