Maxwell Lieberman is currently a Ph.D. student in cultural anthropology at the University of Iowa, who received a grant for “The Last Wild Bison” to research the bison herds of Yellowstone National Park. These bison are in need of protection and Maxwell’s work looked to serve bison advocates through a map of the values that influence stakeholders and decision makers who are directly involved with the Yellowstone bison controversy. He writes:
These bison are the last continuously wild and migratory members of their species in the continental United States, and unfortunately face harassment and persecution when they leave the park boundaries. Meaningful protection of these last wild herds, and ideally their eventual growth, will require an understanding of the values that inform key participants in the debate over the Yellowstone bisons’ future. My research most directly serves bison advocates; this includes nonprofits pushing for greater protections of the Yellowstone bison and Native American activists fighting for greater habitat for the herds. A more nuanced sense of the attitudes and beliefs that motivate each of the parties involved in the Yellowstone bison conflict will strengthen the work that wildlife advocates have been doing in the region for decades already.
CAF’s grant allowed Max to conduct fieldwork in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. He was able to meet with representatives from regional nonprofit organizations and government agencies who are active in bison conservation. One of his highlights was spending an afternoon observing bison and learning about their behavior from a Yellowstone National Park biologist. He also met with conservationists in the Bozeman area who are working on a bison reintroduction project in the state of Montana.
Maxwell also started learning basic digital mapping skills to supplement his ethnographic research and create maps to demonstrate where bison and humans are coming into contact in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, as well as where bison need greater protection once they leave the national park and enter the state of Montana. He is currently working on a preliminary research project concerning whitetail deer in Iowa City, IA, hoping to contribute research that will aid in mitigating urban wildlife conflicts.