Q&A with Ava Fabian '19
(Ava is pictured at the far right.)
Why did you want to participate in the Yellowstone trip?
I remember the first time that I heard about the trip to Yellowstone National Park during sophomore year in environmental science class. I immediately felt a rush of excitement because the science trip had everything I loved: travel, nature, and hands-on science. It all seemed so appealing to me because I had been considering studying something with environmental science for awhile. I was also driven to better get to know some of my classmates and try something new and exciting.
What were three of the most memorable experiences?
Of all the experiences in Yellowstone, I can honestly say every single one was memorable and left a lasting impression on me. Getting to help park biologists with a grass study in Hayden Valley was one of the most memorable though. It was such a sunny day with a few fluffy clouds in the sky. The group of us from Magnificat worked alongside park biologists to conduct a bison grazing survey. This survey measured the level of grazing bison did using exclosures to show that bison grazing does not negatively impact the park like a lot of people believe. The group learned how controversial bison are in and around the park and that grazing is only one subtopic of many. What made it so memorable is that a herd of mother bison and their young, called “red dogs”, made their way closer and closer to the site we were at. The group of us, including the researchers and biologists, just stood still and watched as the bison grazed and passed by us like we didn’t even exist.
A second memorable experience was when the Magnificat group spent one of the nine days hiking. We drove from our campsite to Hellroaring trail and began our trek. Besides the constant swarm of hungry mosquitos, the hike was so tranquil. Everyone joked around and enjoyed each others’ company while we hiked and marveled at the abundance of wildlife. There were seas of wildflowers everywhere like lupine, bitterroot, prairie smoke, and too many more to count. We all saw juvenile salamanders in still existing vernal pools and heard wolf howls in the distance. The hike was so memorable because it felt like a dream to be experiencing so much joy and wonder in an almost untouched piece of God’s creation. It felt so peaceful to sit and reflect at one point on the trail and take in all of the surroundings.
A final memorable experience was the routine the group fell into at our campgrounds. The simple way that we worked together to complete basic tasks was beyond humbling. Everyone had their part of camp life whether it be cooking diner, doing dishes with river water, or other tasks that made life easier. We all got to get to know each other so well. We had a great time bonding over the work that we were doing each day and journaling in circles in the evening, while watching the sun set over the mountains. I also really enjoyed when Mrs. Paul and I would spend some time identifying new wildflowers we saw on our daily excursions. One of the things we did as a group each evening at camp was an activity called “Quest for Knowledge” where a group would sort through a bin of books that the instructors brought. Each night was about the topic of the next day’s work so we would learn so many things about different topics such as thermal features, different kinds of wildlife, sustainability, and more. Overall, it was a great way to experience lifelong learning with the whole group.
Can you tell us about the research you did in Yellowstone? What did you do?
What really was special about that was how the group was able to interact with the biologists and researchers out in the field during the bison research study. They were all such great sources of knowledge and wisdom that it felt like the whole world was opened up to me. While learning and working hands-on with researchers and biologists, the group and I also were able to enjoy some of the most wild yet calm landscapes in God’s creation.
Also, it was amazing to learn about invasive species like spotted knapweed and getting to work with ranchers to remove it from their land. Not only did we learn how devastating invasive species can be to people with all sorts of livelihoods, we were able to aid people that were affected by it and remove as much as we could.
Another study that we conducted was an amphibian study in a semi-remote part of the park. There were no park researchers with us, but they had given us sheets to survey the area and document what kinds of amphibians we could find in vernal pools. We were able to learn by ourselves what to look for and we talked about how the numbers that we identified with affected the park ecosystem. The group did other studies too like scouting wolves in the Lamar Valley with biologists, as well as tracking bison and pronghorn in the same valley to see if they were in good health.
How did the experience impact or change you?
The experience of being in Yellowstone, learning so much about so many science-related topics, and bonding with the Magnificat group was such an impactful experience. I think it’s made me gain a greater appreciation of my surroundings and it reminded me to not take anything for granted. I returned home feeling refreshed with a new sense of excitement for learning and an urge to spend more time out of my comfort zone. Before going on this trip, I knew how much I loved nature but since returning, I have gained a new sort of respect for what God has created and a sense of responsibility of caring for it. It is more than an obligation to care for God’s creation to me; it is a great passion of mine to be able to be a part of conserving this amazing planet.
How did you experience a sense of awe and wonder on the trip?
Without hesitation, I can say that experienced both awe and wonder on a daily basis in Yellowstone. Every opportunity to learn about conservation, ecology, and more sparked further curiosity. Seeing the landscape and how different it was than Cleveland always left me speechless because the landscape was just so pure and untouched. I was also in awe of the generosity and kindness that was shown to us by all those we interacted with during the nine days we spent in Yellowstone National Park.
What do you plan to study in college and/or pursue as a career?
Being able to go on this trip gave me that final reassuring push to go for what I want in life. In college, I hope to study environmental science and/or conservation biology to someday be able to work in a national park myself. I’m sure that I will be able to find the most fitting career to pursue the further I continue in my education.