Sharing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem lesson plan/activity

Part of the Climate In My Backyard (CLiMB) series, this lesson plan includes an active strategy game through which students will experience the frustrations of trying to balance the needs of wildlife conservation, ranchers, home developers, and wildlife conservationists in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. (Teachers could substitute another ecosystem with which they are familiar). Participants will also discuss possible solutions for accommodating all stakeholders. 

The activity is based on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which hosts some of the country’s greatest diversity of wildlife and hydrothermal features that have made it a famous and highly valued system. The GYE supports a high abundance of wildlife, ranchers, homeowners, recreationists, and tourists that all depend on its resources. Climate change is expected to have a significant impact on species and resource composition and distribution. Understanding and preparing for climate change requires an understanding of how to balance the needs of all stakeholders in the ecosystem. This is a complex and often frustrating challenge, and requires understanding the perspective of each group. This lesson gives students an experience in the frustrations involved in sharing resources in order to discuss solutions and strategies needed to prepare for a balanced GYE under future climate change.

This activity was developed by Erica Garroutte, a graduate student in the Ecology Department at Montana State University working with Dr. Andrew Hansen. This lesson plan was inspired by her fieldwork in Yellowstone National Park on grassland dynamics and on the work of Dr. Nathan Piekielek who completed his PhD research on grassland phenology in Yellowstone National Park.

The lesson and Powerpoint slides can be downloaded from the Climate In My Backyard Website (


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