Setting up a camera trap during training for the ASC Uintas Carnivore Survey. (Photo by Mike Quist Kautz)

Writer Nate Schweber joined ASC this June, backpacking in northeastern Utah during our second training for the Uinta Carnivore Survey crew. Schweber was researching a story that was recently published in Al Jazeera America. Below, Schweber discusses what drew him to the project, and what his experience was like in the Uintas:

I wanted to report this story because recently I noticed more and more opportunities for volunteers to help scientists. I thought this could make a great trend story (as one of the people I quoted put it, this is “the re-democratization of science”). This trend has deep roots in history, but also has its fair share of modern skeptics. When I learned that Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation would help the Forest Service scour Utah’s massive Unita Mountains for wolverines and lynx, I knew I had found an interesting project that I could use to help illustrate the bigger story. 

What I found most fascinating in my reporting was watching professionals teach the intricacies of data collection to volunteers—essentially deputizing them as new scientists. In a campground on the banks of the swollen Bear River, Forest Service biologists and ASC employees showed how to set up motion-activated cameras and bait stations in the remote backcountry. I was impressed with the quality of the instruction, and each volunteer’s technical aptitude to grasp it. Not to mention, I was impressed with the volunteers’ enthusiasm for the project and their courage to handle the Gusto—that brown and goopy wolverine-attractant paste that reeks like dirty skunk underwear. 

My favorite part of the trip was getting to explore the majestic Uintas, part of Utah’s great treasure-trove of public lands. I camped in the wilderness with a good crew next to a cascading river, I stood on the bank of a mountain lake still sheathed in ice beneath a craggy peak that crackled with small avalanches, and I got to learn more about the mythical wolverine. Selfishly, I also got a little closer to my lifetime goal of catching each of the 14 surviving subspecies of cutthroat trout: In a little creek in the Wasatch National Forest I caught and released a Bonneville cutthroat—my first. 

Read Nate’s Story in Al Jazeera America here: http://bit.ly/1CEPcsf

Learn more about the Uinta Carnivore Survey and other ASC projects on our website, the Field Notes blog, and our FacebookTwitterInstagram and Google+ pages.