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Prehistory of Greater Yellowstone Lecture Series

  • Buffalo Bill Center of the West 720 Sheridan Ave Cody, WY, 82414 United States (map)

Join the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Draper Natural History Museum, at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in beautiful Cody, Wyoming for our annual, three-part lecture series on Greater Yellowstone. Open and free to the public, this year we are bringing an exciting series focused on the prehistory of Greater Yellowstone, as seen through the eyes of three of the world’s foremost experts on the region. Lectures are designed to educate and inspire locals and visitors alike to the wonders of Yellowstone with a particular focus on the Absaroka-Beartooth mountain ranges and the Bighorn Basin. 

The lecture series will be held at the Draper Natural History Museum, the region’s premier resource for scientific knowledge on the lands, waters, and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The Draper is the ideal venue to explore questions about the prehistory of Yellowstone with the scientists that know it best. Each hour-long presentation will be followed by a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres.

Speaker & Topic

Dr. Cathy Whitlock – Fire and Climate Change, Are they Connected?


Presentations take place at the Draper Natural History Museum, located at 720 Sheridan Avenue, Cody WY 82414.


6:15 p.m. – Presentation
7:15 p.m. – Cash bar and Hors d’oeuvres


In the last 30 years, the western U.S. has experienced a number of severe and large fire events, starting with the 1988 fires in Yellowstone.  Why?  How much of the current fire activity is caused by climate change and how much can be blamed on Smokey Bear and past forest management policies? Cathy Whitlock will describe Yellowstone’s long-term fire and forest history over the last 15,000 years, drawing on her years of research piecing together the clues preserved in the sediments of lakes.  This paleo-information is critical for understanding how ancient people, past climate change, and fires have shaped the Yellowstone landscape, as well as for assessing the region’s vulnerability to climate change in the future.


Cathy Whitlock is Professor of Earth Sciences and co-Director of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems. She is recognized nationally and internationally for her scholarly contributions and leadership activities in the area of long-term environmental change.  In particular, Cathy has studied the history of forest ecosystems and their sensitivity to past climate, human activities and fire.  She has published over 150 scientific papers on this topic, and conducted research in Yellowstone since 1979.  Following the 1988 Yellowstone fires, Cathy and her team developed analytical tools and modeling approaches to reconstruct past fires from charcoal particles preserved in lake sediments; these methods are now used by fire-history researchers around the world.  She was elected as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012 and received the international EO Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award in 2014.  While her research has taken her to every continent, the secrets of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are a continual source of inspiration and fascination for Cathy and her students.