Summer Community of Scholars

Who's exploring forest ecology?

Colin Peacock

COLIN PEACOCK

I grew up with constant reminder that the wilderness is my home. There really is no better way to put it. My family and I would spend most of the year camping and traveling all over the great American west; Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and every place in between. I think I must have missed the first week of all of my middle school years simply because some of the best camping in Arizona was always right when classes started. And so it follows that fighting for the preservation and conservation of wilderness would be of interest to me. Also, the area I'm working in this summer is a place where my father spent time in when he came back from Viet Nam, and part of my going in there has been because my father always knew it was one of the last big empty spots on the map. He was always looking at those, planning his next hike or imaging what could be hidden in a place where you don't see another human being for weeks at a time. These places were of great meaning to him, and perhaps saved him from much as anything could from some of the ravages of that war. And with that in mind, and for my own selfish reasons, I'm looking to keep those places big and empty, and conservation biology seems the best way for me to do that at the moment.

Current Research

The research I'm working on at the moment is highly focused on how global warming and the delisting of grizzly bears from the endangered species list is affecting The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Specifically, we're looking at the rate high mountain pine beetle infestations are spreading through whitebark pine in the northern Wind Rivers Mountain Range of Wyoming. Whitebark pine seeds are the main fall food source of the Yellowstone grizzly, and with their severe losses due to beetle attacks we're seeing more and more human related mortalities as the bears come down to look nearer to human populations for food. We're also looking at how pika populations, extremely temperature sensitive, high-alpine dwelling cousins of the rabbit, are changing in distribution with impacts from global warming. This project began last summer, with the great help of Dena Adler, a sophomore at Brown University, and my partner in hiking in the winds for two weeks at a time. The research is done in conjunction with, and builds upon, work started by Dr. Jesse Logan, the former head of the US Forest Service pine beetle team. And Dr. Chris Ray with the Craighead institute, who has been using pika's as indices of local climate change for over 25 years.

Other interests

Other than working on conservation issues, I'm also a professionally trained chef, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy. So I cook a good bit, or at least spend much of my time thinking about what I could cook or where next I would want to eat. And as you can probably guess, I spend much of my free time thinking about getting outside, going hiking, camping, fly fishing, mushroom hunting, and foraging wherever I may be in the world. I've also been trying to learn how to hunt traditionally with a longbow made of no synthetic materials, but alas my move from Arizona to Worcester has curtailed that until I find the strength to force myself outside during the winter. It has also become quite obvious that freezing temperatures have directly increased the development of my video gaming and sci fi/fantasy reading skills, and has most definitely helped with my Vermont microbrewery appreciation as well.

I'm active in Clark Accountability Now! A club that holds Clark accountable to the global community, and this year in particular we've focused on raising awareness about the benefits of locally produced food versus mass produced industrialized food.

Awards

Steinbrecher Fellowship, Clark University, 2009

Undergraduate Research Grant, University of Arizona, 2008