Education

Sanctuary Receives Grants for Interactive Signage

The Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary has received three grants to start an Interactive Interpretive Display project. The new computer-based signage will augment, rather than replace, the existing signs by the animal habitats.

One of the screens for the interactive coyote display.

One of the screens for the interactive coyote display.

“Interactive displays will really enhance the visitor experience,” said Gary Robson, the Sanctuary’s Education Director, “and we wouldn’t have been able to start up the project without the support of the O. P. & W. E. Edwards Foundation, the Red Lodge Rotary Club, and the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation.”

Assembling the development system, which uses a 7" touchscreen display with the Raspberry Pi 3B+ mounted on the back. In the background is a custom stand for mounting the system.

Assembling the development system, which uses a 7" touchscreen display with the Raspberry Pi 3B+ mounted on the back. In the background is a custom stand for mounting the system.

Over two thousand people each year — mostly children — participate in organized educational programs at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary, and thousands more take self-guided tours. The goal of this project is to provide a more engaging way to present information about the animals to the self-guided visitors. The audio-visual format appeals to different kinds of learners, and children are more likely to engage with an interactive display than a static sign.

The displays will use touch screens, speakers, and Raspberry Pi computers to present the information. Visitors will be able to listen to animal calls, view dynamic range maps, learn to tell related species apart, and more. All of the programming, graphics, and design will be done by the existing Education Department staff and volunteers (mostly by Robson).

The grant money received so far will purchase the development system and the equipment for the first display, which will go in the viewing cabana for the coyote habitat.

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“A huge advantage of interactive electronic displays is that they can be reprogrammed and repurposed,” Robson added, “where printed signs end up being discarded. Electronic displays can also be updated quickly, easily, and cheaply when something changes, like a new animal being added. We are looking for approximately $4,000 in additional funding to expand the project to other habitats around the Sanctuary, which will require waterproof housings and additional electrical wiring.”

A functioning demo of the coyote sign, using the small demo screen.

A functioning demo of the coyote sign, using the small demo screen.

For additional information about the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary’s Interactive Interpretive Display Project please contact Gary Robson at 406/446-1133 or Gary@YellowstoneWildlife.org.

A map of the top-level screens of the coyote sign.

A map of the top-level screens of the coyote sign.

YWS Partners with Carbon County Historical Society for Bison Education

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Anyone interested in the history of the American bison will want to take a look at the traveling exhibit from the National Buffalo Foundation that is on display in Red Lodge through June 16.

The majority of the exhibit is at the Carbon County Historical Society and Museum on Broadway. The Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary is hosting a trailer with a supplemental exhibit generously donated by Don and Bobbie Woerner. There is also additional signage from the exhibit in the Sanctuary’s Education Building.

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“We’re pleased to be a part of this, and to give visitors a chance to see a live bison after looking through the exhibit,” said Gary Robson, the Sanctuary’s Education Director. “Educational nonprofit partnerships like this enhance the experience for our visitors and benefit everyone involved. I’ve made the bison trailer a regular part of each tour I give at the Wildlife Sanctuary.”

The trailer that is currently housed at the Sanctuary contains a variety of displays from the bison exhibit. It is open during the Sanctuary’s regular hours at no extra charge.

Speedy, a 17-year-old female bison, cannot be released into the wild because she was abandoned by her mother and raised as a pet. She came to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary when she got too big for the family that was raising her, and has been there ever since.

“We’re very excited about the bison exhibit, and we’ve already seen an increase in museum visitors,” said Historical Society Executive Director Sarah Russell. “Even though our organizations have different mission statements, we share a common goal of making Red Lodge a better place to live and visit. Partnerships like this one bring our community together for everyone’s benefit.”

The exhibit houses a wide variety of artifacts ranging from pelts and skulls through maps, articles, signs, and models. It covers the history of the species, the relationship between the bison and the plains tribes, the slaughter of bison in the 1800s, the history of bison ranching, the re-establishment of wild herds in the west, and more.

YWS Hires Gary Robson as Education Director

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The Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary has hired Red Lodge resident Gary Robson as our new Education Director.

“We’re really looking forward to having Gary on board,” said Mark Eder, the President of the Sanctuary’s board of directors. “With his background and experience, he’s the perfect fit for the position, and he has the right personality for education and outreach.”

The Education Director position at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary has been vacant for almost six months, and the Sanctuary has been searching both locally and around the country for candidates. In his new role, Robson will be responsible for creating educational materials and curricula; conducting on-site education through tours and seminars; conducting outreach into schools, museums, and other organizations; setting up field trips; collaborating with other wildlife-focused nonprofits; and working with other staff members on the Sanctuary’s website and social media.

Robson has a varied background. He has written dozens of books, with his children’s nature series, Who Pooped in the Park?, selling over 500,000 copies to date. His background is in technology, where he worked in software engineering and circuit design in the 80’s and 90’s. That turned into extensive work in accessibility technology for deaf people, and teaching computer courses for three colleges, including Rocky Mountain College in Billings.

Robson has lived in Carbon County with his wife, Kathy, since 2001. They owned Red Lodge Books & Tea for 15 years, published the Local Rag newspaper, and currently own the Phoenix Pearl Tea Tavern, which is managed by their daughter, Gwen. Robson is a regular emcee for events in town and is the announcer for the Home of Champions Rodeo Parade and the Winter Fest Parade.

“This job is an exciting new challenge for me,” Robson said. “It dovetails with all of my past work in education and nature, and takes me a step farther in my work with local nonprofits.” He has served on the boards of the Red Lodge Area Chamber of Commerce, Beartooth Elks, and the Festival of Nations, and has been active on committees for the Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City of Red Lodge. He is currently a member of the Sanctuary board, but will be stepping down when he starts the new job.