Research Opportunities at Spear-O Mountain Campus

Graduate, doctoral, and postdoctoral research opportunities can be found at the Spear O Mountain Campus. The Bighorn mountains lie on the western border of the expansive prairie grasslands of the midwest; this location has resulted in flora and fauna that are unique to this understudied area. Possibilities for science include pine beetle tracking, geological mapping, lodgepole pine encroachment, amphibian diversity, and glacial studies at our high elevation Beaver Lakes Field Station. Other unique aspects of the campus involve the existence of the unique post and purfling lodge, the cabin that Ernest Hemingway called home while he wrote “A Farewell to Arms”, and the alpine life zone that lies within several miles of campus.

Intellectual Merit:

The Bighorn Mountains represent an exceptional system for study, largely because the mountains offer wilderness and protected, wilderness and geographically-isolated populations.  The Bighorn Mountains are an isolated range of the Southern Rocky Mountains and are situated between the arid Bighorn Basin to the west and the Great Plains to the east. The Bighorns have diverse and unique ecological systems, including fens, kettle ponds, meadows, alpine tundra, and high elevation lakes. Lodge-pole pine and sub alpine fir dominate the local forest, with opportunities to study fire ecology and the dynamics of old growth stands. Between patches of forest are vast meadows filled with a striking diversity of wildflowers. Opportunities abound to study the effects of grazing and human recreational activity on these ecosystems. The area surrounding Spear-O supports populations of pika, red squirrel, yellow-bellied marmot, moose, black bear, elk, and a variety of amphibian and bird species. Even with these attributes, the ecology of the Bighorns remains conspicuously understudied.  Although the region, including the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area, is open to public access, there are many areas within the permit that never or very seldom have a human visitor. This makes the area a pristine research locale. Researchers from around the nation are invited to establish research activities at the field station, whether it involves natural history, ecological diversity, climate change, human impacts on montane environments, or other areas of interest.

Beaver Lakes Field Station:

As a part of the Mountain Campus, the field station is a remote location in close proximity to the surrounding Cloud Peak Wilderness Area and the associated high alpine areas. The primitive camp includes tent-cabins for sleeping and a central cook tent-cabin. A shower house is available. There is no electricity or cell phone service. Access to Beaver Lakes Field Station from the Spear-O Campus is by horseback or by foot, either through the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area (approximately 15 miles), or by road/trails that circumvents around the wilderness. There is also motorized access to within one and a half miles of the camp.

Educational Center Special Use Permit Area:

Permit boundary is indicated by the yellow line. Cloud Peak Wilderness Area is represented by the darker shaded area. “Mountain Campus” is the Spear-O site. Beaver Lakes Field Station is indicated by the second arrow.


Apply to do your Research at Spear-O/Beaver Lakes:

We welcome all ideas and possibilities regarding research at our main Spear-O Mountain Campus or our Beaver Lakes Field Station.  To inquire further, please email Although the Mountain Campus is closed we would entertain research projects that do not require support.

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