Steinbrecher Fellow studies climate change effect on grizzlies

Findings help convince Federal Judge to order grizzly relisting

Colin S. Peacock of Tucson, Ariz., was one of 11 Clark University undergraduates who was awarded a Steinbrecher Fellowship to support his creative research project this summer and throughout the 2009-2010 academic year. 

Peacock is using his Steinbrecher Fellowship to study climate change and its effects on grizzly bear food sources. He spent the month of August in the Wind Rivers Mountain Range of central western Wyoming, a place he describes as "the highest, coldest, and most remote place you can find in the lower forty-eight United States."

"It was a completely unexpectedly amazing summer. Flying over glaciers, grizzlies and some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world is an experience unlike any other."

Peacock braved motion sickness as he flew around in small, ultra-light airplanes photographing the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. He hiked into high-elevation areas to observe and record the extent and area damaged by pine beetles and Pikas (small dwelling rodents), dodging thunderstorms along the way. To further his overall goal of creating habitat linkages for grizzlies between Yellowstone Park and The Wind Rivers, Peacock put together GIS maps of pine beetle deforestation in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. He also made connections with a nearby Indian reservation and the communities within about the possibility of having a student program in the area.

The idea for his project came when the student and his girlfriend were hypothesizing what they could do for a summer project that would "inspire, educate, and be valuable for us and the world," wrote Peacock. "And if our interest is the conservation of wild places (and it most certainly is), then what better area to conserve than one in our own backyard that might hold in it the last best hope for the grizzly in the lower 48 states?"

Peacock said, "It was a completely unexpectedly amazing summer. Flying over glaciers, grizzlies and some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world is an experience unlike any other." Peacock's research has already made a difference. In September, a federal judge in Montana restored protection for an estimated 600 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park. Peacock's research on the extent of white bark pine mortality in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem helped influence this decision. 

Peacock is passionate about conservation. He worked for a year with the Round River Conservation Studies in Namibia studying Black Rhino and Cheetah populations and spent last year working as an instructor to college students in Canada, teaching wilderness survival skills. "In my own personal experience, nothing is more efficacious and worthwhile than students working with native peoples to conserve the land that they have traditionally lived on," he wrote.

Peacock has seemingly always had an interest in nature and wild places. He said much of his life "has been spent in a large extent, exploring wild places, camping and hiking to where there are no people." His father, Doug Peacock, spent a great deal of time filming and living among grizzlies after returning from Vietnam.

Parminder Bhachu, professor of sociology at Clark, wrote that Peacock "makes Clark proud through his high level of expertise and commitment to wilderness preservation…. He is a genuine committed environmentalist who has been trained for his métier since childhood."

Susan Foster, professor and chair of Clark's Biology Department wrote that Peacock's project "is [one] that will make a major difference in a changing world."

Peacock is a member of the Class of 2010 at Clark; he majors in conservation biology. He is a member of Campus Accountability Now!, a student organization that aims to hold the Clark community accountable to the global community. Peacock is the son of Doug Peacock of Livingston, MT and Lisa Peacock of Tucson, Ariz. He attended Green Fields Country Day School and received his GED in 2003.

Steinbrecher Fellowships encourage and support Clark undergraduates in their pursuit of original ideas, creative research, and community service projects. The Fellowship Program, established in 2006 in memory of David C. Steinbrecher, class of '81, by his parents, Phyllis and Stephen Steinbrecher, class of '55, is funded by generous gifts from them and from other family members and friends of David. It is directed by Professor Sharon Krefetz, former Dean of the College and chair of Clark's Department of Government and International Relations. 

"The Steinbrecher Fellowship Program enables our students to pursue their passions and to engage in innovative research or much-appreciated community service. I am enormously grateful to the Steinbrecher family for making this possible," said Krefetz.