Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Michigan students learn about moose, wolves

BESSEMER -- Biology students from A.D. Johnston High School in Bessemer learned about wildlife biology and predator prey relationships from Dr. John Vucetich of Michigan Technological University. Vucetich has been studying the wolves and moose on Isle Royale since 1990 and he has been co-leading the study with Rolf Peterson since 2000. During the presentation, he helped the ADJ students understand how moose and wolves live and how multiple factors affect the dynamics of their populations on Isle Royale.

"I think that many of my students gained new insights into the complexities of predator prey relationships and in doing so they have a greater appreciation for both wolves and moose," said teacher David Rowe.

This is the third year in a row that Vucetich has visited A.D. Johnston. "We are really lucky that he comes," Rowe said. "He told me that he doesn't speak at many high schools but when he isn't on the island he is often sent across the country to speak to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or at Yellowstone National Park."

The visits began when Vucetich had been giving a wolf and moose presentation at the Sigrid Olson Environmental Learning Center at Northland College and didn't want to waste a day traveling back to MTU, so he called several local schools and asked to give a presentation, Rowe said. "In one of our emails this spring he mentioned that he really likes coming to Bessemer and he looks forward to giving the presentation."

The wolf and moose study on Isle Royale is the longest-lasting predator-prey relationship study in the world. Even on Isle Royale, which is considered a uniquely simple system because there is basically one predator and one prey species, it is difficult to predict population dynamics because of unpredictable events such as winter tic outbreaks or unusually harsh winters.

It is difficult for a moose or wolf to survive on Isle Royale, Vucetich said.

All told, it was a great lesson in wildlife biology coming from a man who has devoted his professional career to studying the moose, wolves and Island that he has come to love.

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