Jack Buchinger: Early Connections

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Jack (second from right) and his classmates and instructors at Two Medicine Lake, Glacier National Park. 

During the last week and a half we have faced many challenges – but we have faced them as a group. In this group dynamic we have found that when something affects any one of us, it impacts us all either directly or indirectly.  From getting rained on while hiking and cooking, to keeping our pace consistent to match those who may have a minor injury (blisters, man), whatever happens we are connected much like the ecosystems we hiked through.  From fens to forests, and everything in between, we are connected not only to each other, but to those ecosystems.  That same inter-connectivity can be found in nature.  One example of this concept of inter-connectivity is trophic cascade.

A trophic cascade is defined as “reciprocal predator-prey effects that alter the abundance, biomass, or productivity of a population community or trophic level across more than one link in a food web” (Pace et. al., 1999).  Whoa, that’s a dense bit of scientific mumbo-jumbo.  Let me break that one on down to a more digestible bit of information.  Let’s look at the case of wolves in Yellowstone to better understand this concept.  The wolves were removed (killed in mass by scared humans) and as a result the elk population got much too large, as there was no natural check on them.  The elk began overgrazing the aspens until the aspen population dropped off.  The inter-connectivity demonstrated in this case is also demonstrated in our group’s dynamic.  What affects one part of our group impacts our entire group in a very big way.

Whether it’s the struggle to write journals and complete readings after hiking all day, or it’s the joy we share in learning – we are in it together.  A blistered foot on one of us (or most of us) impacts each of us.  We struggle together.  We study together.  We laugh together.  We grow together.  We do this all together because at the end of the day—we are connected by this adventure we’re on.

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