Wildlife & Ecosystems

Restoring Fire, Wolves, and Bison to the Canadian Rockies

How do two forces of nature—wolves and fire—shape the landscape? Explore this burning question in Canada’s wilderness.

Explore this expedition

Read reviews
Join Ambassador Program
Earn expedition discounts & rewards for spreading the word about Earthwatch.

The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

In many places in western North America, wolves have been hunted to near extinction. Here, they’ve made a comeback naturally.

Help researchers untangle how the relationships between wolves, elk, and humans can keep this amazing place intact.

The leadership of this national park strives to use natural forces like wolves and wildfires to do the jobs they were meant to do—create a healthy ecosystem. But since humans knocked natural relationships off kilter as they hunted and settled the land hundreds of years ago, we first need to help restore these forces of nature. That’s the goal of this research.

A volunteer measures the height of an aspen sapling.

A volunteer measures an aspen tree.

The particular relationships you’re investigating look like this: Invasive aspen trees choke out the native grassland. To protect the grassland, Waterton National Park Natural Resources staff conduct controlled burns to simulate the effect of naturally occurring wildfire, which culls the aspens and stimulates the growth of new trees. The tender, young aspen shoots lure the elk, which eat them all up and clear space for the grass to grow.

The wildcard? Wolves have recently made a comeback in the park. Researchers think that as a result, elks aren’t mowing down the aspen shoots as expected. Baby aspens draw lots of elk, and elk draw wolves—making the elk skittish and less likely to linger as they eat.

Help researchers find out if their hypothesis is correct, and what they can do to foster natural relationships between the forces at play in this wilderness.

About the research area

Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:



The Scientists


Chief Scientist at Earthwatch Institute and Faculty at Oregon State University

ABOUT Cristina Eisenberg

Dr. Eisenberg, a forest ecologist and expert wildlife tracker, became interested in wolves when she moved to Montana with her family in the 1990s and found herself in a landscape with, as she says, more large carnivores than people—but no wolves.



Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


Comments & Questions

Upcoming Expeditions