It's a lot differentthan it is on television, I can tell you that.
For two yearsI've been a ranch hand, working the landon the Paramount Network series Yellowstone, a role I was born to play.
See, as a kidI discovered my love for this giant wild punchbowl where the skyjust goes on forever.
But today, something is amiss.
Yellowstone has seen changesthat have hunters and ranchers, scientists and park visitorsalike, concerned, not just forthe future of the park, but for the planet itself.
I want to know whythis particular place is so important.
Why this environment, this ecosystem can answer the bigger questionsthat we have.
So this trip is differentfrom the ones I took as a child.
This trip isn't aboutdiscovering nature's beauty, but about finding outwhat I can do to preserve it.
Good morning, everyone.
My name is Erik Oberg.
I am the founderof the phenology project here in Yellowstone.
Phenology is the studyof nature's calendar, right? So we are- Like me, Erik Obergcame to Yellowstone as a kid and fell in love.
Okay, let's take a look.
Today he's a biologistand a Yellowstone park ranger who leads a teamof volunteer citizen scientists that study how the parks, plants, flowers, and insects are adapting toa changing environment.
This is one of the world's mostpristine natural laboratories.
It's really one of the placesthat gets us as close as we can be to the mostnatural conditions that that we find on earth.
I would imagine that studyingcycles and patterns are going to highlight changes that the ecosystem'sgoing through.
Nature is always changing, but here in Yellowstone we have some reallyclear evidence that that pace of changeis happening faster.
Spring is now comingabout a month sooner than it did30 years ago.
30 years ago.
Yeah, a month changein about 30 years of time.
Someone who understandsthe challenges facing Yellowstone betterthan most is Dr.
Mike Tercek, a Ph.
in ecologyand evolutionary biology.
He's one of 875 permanentresidents of Gardiner, Montana, the gateway to the park.
Here he's spentthe last 20 years exploring and studying his town'snext door neighbor.
Can you tell me whyit's so important that we use this ecosystemhere at Yellowstone? This was a national park before there wasa National Park Service.
1872, it was the place wherepreserving nature was born, you could argue.
If we can't protect this and dothe things to maintain it, what does that meanfor the rest of the world, the life support systemthat keeps us alive? To better understandthe scale of the threat that a warmer and drier climatemeans for Yellowstone, we decided to get out ofthe weeds and into the clouds.
All of these downed trees, that's fire damage.
When you're high uplike this, you can really seethe scale of the problem.
You know, forests likeWhitebark Pine that took 20 human generationsto grow that are going to be wiped outin one generation and they won't havetime to recover.
You have the northeast entrancein Yellowstone? Since the 1960s, we have one month less of snowcover than we used to.
What would you say to peoplewho would argue that the differences thatwe're seeing are an anomaly, that if you zoom out far enough, it's going to be just a blip and it's not as bad as you thinkand it's going to be part of the normal coursecorrections of the planet? The biggest differenceis the rate of the change that we're talking about, and it's very well correlatedto industrial activity.
If you run the climateprojections out into the future, under a business-as-usualscenario, you'll have yearsthat are as dry as 1988, which was considereda 300-year event, by 2050 or so that'll happenevery three to five years.
Which means that it will becomea charred moonscape- So you would just lose allthe majesty of our forest.
You know, I thinka lot of people will say, “Well, it'll still be wildand it'll still be different, ” but I have to disagree.
We're in the early stages of what I considerto be a catastrophe, and you can't hidehow you feel about this anymore.
This for me has to work outa certain way.
We need to stop the problembefore it gets to that point.
One person doing his part to stop the problemis Charley Able, a local engineerand lifelong outdoorsman.
Charley's joining mein the park today to help collect data on bison.
What's that? Oh, I heard a tone.
So there's a collared animal.
And we just sort of metal detectyour way to a- You metal detect your way in.
Our turn as citizen scientistsis led by Park Ranger and wildlife biologistChris Geremiah.
Geremiah runs a teamof volunteers who monitor the impact shortergrowing seasons have on Yellowstone'slargest mammals.
What these bison dois they re-graze the same area over and over and over again.
It's kind of like cuttingyour lawn with a lawnmower, and as a result, the grass has never matured.
They're soft, they're nutritious, they're the same thingsyou'd find on a watered lawn.
And then we're tryingto figure out, well, how does that affect allthe other animals in the park? The answer to that questionlies somewhere in the grass clippings, soil samples, and bison poop, or scat as the scientistslike to call it.
So once you put these on, don't wipe your nose.
So here's one.
That one'spretty fresh in there.
Can we flag it? All right.
This is a team effort.
I'm just going to kind of- Yep.
Just nice and gently.
I was upset when I got the spoonto begin with, but now- You're happier about it.
I'm happy that I got the spoonand you got the bags.
I think the biggest take-homefrom bison is to realize that these animalsare incredibly resilient.
They don't just moveto find food, but how they move makes food, and they're very smart.
And they're just going to adaptto these changes.
Or try to.
Or try to.
Try to because the hard thingis what happens if they can't? All these systemshave timescales that they naturally can adapt on.
If you try to go fasterthan that, you're kind of out runningwhat they're capable of.
We know that the temperaturesand the precipitation patterns have changed fairly drasticallyin northern Yellowstone over the last hundred years.
So that's probably happening, maybe more rapid relativeto how animals are learning.
That does mean the animalpopulations in Yellowstone 20, 50 years from nowmay look entirely different than they do today.
The way that I understandthe whole system working, all of the parts work together, and I didn't realizehow land did that in this way.
The soil and the ground and whatlives on it shape one another, and it's a continuingdance cycle of life.
You know, I've never feltso motivated to be a better dance partner, I guess.
My fellow bison scat collector, Charley Able, has been dancing withclimate change for decades, first as an MIT-trained engineerwho started a mining and drilling companywith this data and as a lifelong hunterand fisherman.
Now he's a dedicated volunteer for the nationalnonpartisan organization, Citizens' Climate Education, and will talk to anybody who will listenabout climate change solutions.
Most people have opinionsabout this.
Like it's kind ofa polarized thing, but if you start drilling downinto exactly what people know, you can help draw theminto a conversation.
A lot of people that mightdisagree that this phenomenon, climate change, is even real or existing, are the most adversely affectedby and they're outdoors people.
Will it take themto lose things and see it beforethey want to make an effort? It might.
That's the unfortunate truth.
The streams mighthave to get warm enough that trout havetrouble surviving.
We might have to losesome big game.
Stuff like that might haveto happen for people to realize, “Hey, this is affecting me.
So there's gotta be a wayto plug in the people that don't knowwhat they don't know.
If it's not economical, I wantto put something in their heart and shock themso they wake up.
So then, I think everybodywants to do that.
But the reality is youcan't push or shock people.
That's why I takethe approach that I do because I think honestlyit's the only one that can be successful.
[singing 00:09:26] There's a piece of Yellowstone that's 22 milesfrom the nearest road.
The most remote patch of landin all the lower 48 states.
But no matter how far it isfrom asphalt or industry, it's still ground zerofor rapid climate change.
So why am I leaving heremore hopeful than ever? Because I'm leavingwith the knowledge that citizens like you and me are fighting for this wild, magical place.
The real trick is to kind ofcall the legislators like they'll actually listen.
And so that's why I'm goingaround talking to people.
Just becauseit's not happening today and just becauseit doesn't look like it's going to happen tomorrow, you just keep grinding away, and we'll get there.
I was really inspired by whatPresident Johnson said in 1964 when he signedthe Wilderness Act, which is pretty connectedto a place like Yellowstone.
He said thatif future generations are going to remember uswith gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miraclesof modern technology.
We must leave thema glimpse of the world as it was when it was new, not just afterwe got through with it.
It's not a science problem.
It's a human problem.
You have to reach peoplein a way that they care about.
Get them to care aboutparticular places like Yellowstone.
After my trip to Yellowstone, I care about this placemore than ever, and I'm going to talk toas many people as I can about not onlywhat's happening here, but what that meansfor our planet.
Do you want to take action?Citizens' Climate Education gives ordinary citizensthe power to educate political leaders, the media, and the general publicabout climate change solutions.
Find your local chapterand get started today.