I wanted to report this story because recently I noticed more and more opportunities for volunteers to help scientists. I thought this could make a great trend story (as one of the people I quoted put it, this is "the re-democratization of science"). This trend has deep roots in history, but also has its fair share of modern skeptics. When I learned that Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation would help the Forest Service scour Utah's massive Unita Mountains for wolverines and lynx, I knew I had found an interesting project that I could use to help illustrate the bigger story.
What I found most fascinating in my reporting was watching professionals teach the intricacies of data collection to volunteers—essentially deputizing them as new scientists. In a campground on the banks of the swollen Bear River, Forest Service biologists and ASC employees showed how to set up motion-activated cameras and bait stations in the remote backcountry. I was impressed with the quality of the instruction, and each volunteer's technical aptitude to grasp it. Not to mention, I was impressed with the volunteers' enthusiasm for the project and their courage to handle the Gusto—that brown and goopy wolverine-attractant paste that reeks like dirty skunk underwear.
My favorite part of the trip was getting to explore the majestic Uintas, part of Utah's great treasure-trove of public lands. I camped in the wilderness with a good crew next to a cascading river, I stood on the bank of a mountain lake still sheathed in ice beneath a craggy peak that crackled with small avalanches, and I got to learn more about the mythical wolverine. Selfishly, I also got a little closer to my lifetime goal of catching each of the 14 surviving subspecies of cutthroat trout: In a little creek in the Wasatch National Forest I caught and released a Bonneville cutthroat—my first.
Read Nate's Story in Al Jazeera America here: http://bit.ly/1CEPcsf