Bozeman, MT/Yellowstone National Park
Jun 29-Jul 03, 2015
Credit: 2 graduate
Instructor(s): Brent Peyton and Christine Smith

Course Description

Co-listed as MB 547, so teachers can choose from which department they want the credit awarded. Indicate your preference on the registration form.

This course will provide a survey of the ecology of important organisms common in thermal habitats of Yellowstone National Park, including a review of different life forms and the physical and chemical habitats that define their environment. The course is structured to provide (1) a basic understanding of the ecology of a variety of life forms in thermal habitats, (2) a survey of observational techniques and hands-on activities appropriate for science educators, and (3) a field trip to visit and characterize several geothermal habitats environments. Fundamental principles of thermal biology will be emphasized during lectures and methods of chemical, physical and biological analyses will be emphasized during the laboratory component while on the MSU campus. A two day field trip to Yellowstone National Park (that includes camping in the park) will include discussion, sampling and characterizing diverse geothermal habitats.

Course Outline:
1) Introduction: Ecology of Thermal Environments
2) Chemical and Physical Properties Important in Geothermal Systems
3) Microbial and Viral Diversity in Thermal Habitats
4) Fungi, Algae, and Plants; Eukaryotes in Thermal Environments
5) Field Experience: Observe, describe and characterize diverse geothermal environments.

Physical Fitness Requirement: Field trips will require walking distances of up to 5 miles with moderate slopes and will involve being in the field for the majority of the day. Weather may vary!

Transportation will be provided by MSU (vans) - no personal vehicles permitted (no exceptions).

Students are expected to provide the following minimum equipment for their camping needs:

  • Sleeping bag and pad (no bulky air mattresses), (We can provide these if needed).
  • Personal toiletries, sunglasses, hat, daypack, water bottle, sunscreen, camera, field notebook and pen, etc.
  • Clothing for hot and cold weather (warm hat and coat, shorts and sun hat).
  • Good hiking shoes (no open toed shoes).
  • Food for lunches (we will restock food supply while in Yellowstone).
  • Large coolers will be provided for perishable food.

Tents and sleeping pads will be provided. Students will need to bring a sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are available for rent at the ASMSU Outdoor Recreation department by visiting or by phone at (406) 994-3621.

Time Commitment: 10-12 hrs/day

Meeting Place and Times

Class: MRF 9:00 am – 5 pm
Location: Gaines Hall 143 (classroom), Gaines Hall 249 (lab)
Field Trip: WR 8:00 am departure on Wednesday and overnight field trip to Yellowstone National Park, returning Thursday at 6:00 pm (Tent camping).

Location: Meet van at MSU Strand Union Building, South Entrance on Wednesday at 7:45 am for an 8:00 am departure.


Brent Peyton, PhD. Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Montana State University

Christine Smith. Thermal Biology Institute


Two years of experience teaching science at the secondary level; graduate standing.

Target Audience

Restricted Entry for Science Educators

Tuition and Fees

If you are accepted into a qualified online program, see the appropriate MSU Online Only Tuition and Fee table below:

If you are also taking a face-to-face course, please refer to the MSU Fee Schedules.

Required Books/Materials

  • Students to purchase book from instructor ($20).

For More Information

contact Diana Paterson at or 406-994-5679.

How to Register

You must be accepted as a student to Montana State University to take this course.

Learn how to apply.

After your application has been accepted, you will register via MSU's online registration system, MyInfo.

Registration requires a PIN number. Learn how to find your PIN.

Once you have your PIN, learn how to register through MyInfo.