Who We Are: The Wild Rockies Field Institute (WRFI) offers academic, field-based courses accredited through the University of Montana. Our courses take place in Montana, the Canadian Rockies, and the American Southwest, combining rigorous academic inquiry with cultural immersion and extended backcountry expeditions. Students join us from colleges and universities across North America and from a wide variety of majors. We currently offer courses in Native American Studies, Environmental Studies, Natural Resource Science & Management, Geography, and Philosophy. WRFI courses broaden the nature of a liberal arts education, teach critical thinking about environmental and social issues, and foster understanding of and respect for natural and human communities.
Job Title: Field Instructors for our Wild Rockies: Conservation Across Boundaries summer semester course and our spring/fall semester courses, Montana Afoot and Afloat: Human/Land Relations and Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons and Cultures. These courses are interdisciplinary in nature and offer students a total of 12-15 upper-division (300-level) credits for their time in the field. Instructors will co-instruct the course with a team of three to six other instructors. Students will receive credits from the University of Montana in a variety of academic departments. Candidates may apply to teach on a single course or multiple courses.
Wild Rockies: Conservation Across Boundaries – Through their field experiences, students gain an academic and experiential understanding of the issues faced by the cultures and landscapes between Montana’s Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Crown of the Continent landscape in the Northern Rockies. These bioregions include fragmented landscapes managed by multiple state and federal agencies, Indigenous Nations, and private landholders. The area is also home to rapidly changing rural communities.
Conserving critical wildlife habitat while making room for changing human development is a tremendous challenge. The challenge is particularly acute when those efforts occur across boundaries of geography, politics, and culture. Nevertheless, rising to this challenge is the long-term task that the area’s communities and conservationists have set for themselves through a variety of collaborative partnerships. Throughout the semester we explore the theme “conservation across boundaries” while examining these partnerships—their goals, how they engage with the area’s diverse human perspectives, and how they get work done on the ground.
Students will explore natural environments on a series of backcountry trips in the Snowcrest Mountain Range, Yellowstone National Park, Bob Marshall Wilderness, and along the Lower Flathead River. Between backcountry trips, students will visit the rural and tribal communities that border these public lands. Students will meet private landowners, public land managers, conservation groups, hunting and recreation guides, conservation biologists, writers, elected officials, and members of the Blackfeet Nation and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Students do extensive reading in the biogeography of the region, explore conservation biology principles, and study the political, social, and economic factors affecting conservation practices. Daily class discussions are complimented with frequent written assignments, meetings with guest speakers, project work, and service projects. This is a truly interdisciplinary course that attempts to provide a rich contextual view of the concepts and issues we study, emphasizing the contributions students can make with their direct experiences in the region and connections with diverse conservation stakeholders. The course culminates with a final paper synthesizing student learning across the academic disciplines represented during the semester, and a public presentation on those themes.
Montana Afoot and Afloat: Human/Land Relations – This course is an intensive nine-week field-course preceded and concluded by several weeks of online assignments and interactions. In the field we will live close to the land and water of Montana, backpacking and kayaking for the majority of the course. Our first expedition is in the Scapegoat Wilderness, followed by explorations of the Rocky Mountain Front and visits with members of the Amskapi Piikani (Southern Piegan or Blackfeet Nation). Next we head to the Missouri River in Fort Benton, and kayak from Coal Banks Landing nearly to the Fort Peck Reservoir. After front-country visits with members of the Nakota (Assiniboine) and Aaniiih (Gros Ventre), which together make up the Fort Belknap Indian Community, we explore the Big Snowy Mountains on a backpacking trip and visit managers and biologists in Yellowstone National Park. At the conclusion of that expedition we begin a kayaking journey down the Tongue River. Our final front-country travels are in the ranchlands and forests on the Tsétsėhéstȧhese and Sótaeòo, which together form the Northern Cheyenne Nation and in Montana’s Tongue River Basin.
Tracing the course of water from montane snowfields to flatland diversions gives students a connected picture of the landscapes, ecosystems, and geography of Montana. Of equal importance are the human communities we visit between backcountry sections. These include three Native American Nations, numerous rural towns, agricultural producers, public land managers, fossil fuel extraction industries, hardrock mines, and conservation groups, among many others.
Integrating student understanding of natural and human systems in Montana is a major goal of the semester. The traditional academic work on these issues includes daily discussions and lectures, readings, a variety of writing assignments, meetings with regional and local experts, and a public presentation by students. The course culminates with a paper articulating a personal “Land Ethic” as informed by student learning and experiences during the semester.
Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons & Cultures – Through their field experiences with all five academic units on this course, students will gain an academic and experience-based understanding of the issues faced by the cultures and landscapes of the Colorado Plateau. Resilience and Revolution: Adaptation in a Region on the Edge is the unifying theme of the course. Following that theme, we explore how these paired concepts apply to various biophysical and social systems experiencing disturbance, either by rebounding to a previous state (resilience) or with substantial shifts in structure and function (revolution). The academic disciplines of Native American studies, natural history, public lands policy, cultural history, and regional geography connect our field-based explorations to traditional academic contexts. Explicitly connecting on-campus studies to the powerful field experiences gained on expeditions helps students apply their learning to diverse issues and environments. Students leaving this semester will have a base of experience and contextualized academic learning that will facilitate engaged citizenship in a variety of current social, cultural, and environmental issues.
Qualifications: Candidates must have a Master’s degree or PhD in Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, Geography, Natural Resources, or a related field. Prior college-level teaching experience; a background in outdoor leadership; backpacking and/or flatwater canoeing/kayaking experience; and Wilderness First Aid or First Responder certification is also required.
Locations: Conservation Across Boundaries explores the Snowcrest Mountain Range, Yellowstone National Park, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Blackfeet Nation, Glacier National Park, and Flathead Reservation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Montana Afoot and Afloat explores the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Big Snowy Mountains, Missouri River Breaks National Monument, Bighorn River, and the Blackfeet, Fort Belknap (A’aninin and Nakoda), and Northern Cheyenne Nations. Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons and Cultures takes place in the Colorado Plateau region of the American Southwest on successive explorations of Horseshoe Canyon, Dirty Devil Canyon, Diné (Navajo) and Hopi Nations, Dark Canyon, and the Green River.
Dates: The six-week Conservation Across Boundaries field course typically runs from mid-June until late July. The nine-week Montana Afoot and Afloat course runs from late August until late October. The nine-week Colorado Plateau course typically runs from late March until late May, and again from early September until early November. Candidates for this position must be available to be in the field for at least two weeks during this time period. In addition to time in the field, the instructor will be responsible for pre-course preparation and post-course wrap-up.
Compensation: Field pay ranges from $100 to $125 per day, depending on experience. Pre- and post-course work is compensated at $15 per hour. A food stipend and travel reimbursement will be provided.
How to Apply: Please send a cover letter, resume, and three references to [email protected].
Closing Date: Open until filled