Cycle the Rockies: Energy and Climate Change in Montana

The Wild Rockies Field Institute is offering the following class this summer:

Cycle the Rockies: Energy and Climate Change in Montana

Dates: June 21- July 18, 2018

Cost: $3,950

Course listing:

Environmental Studies 395: Field Studies of Climate Change in Montana (3 credits)

Natural Resource Science & Management 321: Field Studies of Energy Systems in Montana (3 credits)

Apply Here!


**WRFI now owns a fleet of touring bikes and associated bike touring gear available for rent! 


Students on this course will explore Montana by bicycle while studying the ecological, social, and economic issues associated with energy production and use. We will traverse rolling plains and beautiful mountains, enjoying the changing landscapes and meeting with people deeply involved in energy and climate issues. Traveling by bicycle will give us a unique perspective and an appropriate pace for examining the past, present and future of energy and climate change in the West.

Montana offers prime examples of current energy production facilities, from traditional fossil fuel energy sites to exciting alternative technologies for producing power. Our route begins in eastern Montana at oil refineries and a coal-fired power plant in the industrial core of Billings. Then we will pedal north and west through grasslands and island mountain ranges on the central plains, visiting energy-efficient buildings and production sites for biofuels, and wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power along the way.

After meetings with energy and climate policy experts at the state capitol in Helena, we will turn north along the impressive Rocky Mountain Front to Glacier National Park. We’ll cycle over the Continental Divide, spending time with climate scientists and park managers in Glacier before ending in Missoula with a public presentation.

Among the things we will do along the way:

  • Visit facilities using or producing biodiesel, wind energy, solar power, geothermal heating, and biofuels.
  • Examine fossil fuel technologies and impacts at coalfields, power plants, and oil refineries.
  • Tour a hydroelectric dam.
  • Visit ranchers, land managers, and farmers who are facing the impacts of climate change along with various opportunities for energy production.
  • Meet local and state officials working on state energy and climate policy.
  • Explore “green” energy-efficient buildings in Billings and Central Montana.
  • Talk with Glacier National Park scientists about the regional impacts of global warming.
  • Read and discuss a wide selection of current articles on energy issues and climate change.
  • Complete academic assignments designed to integrate our experiences and learning.
  • Present experiences and learning in open forums using electronic media and public presentations.
  • Become competent bicycle travelers.

Our choices of energy sources and consumption are some of the most critical decisions we will make as a society over the coming decades. Montana has abundant quantities of coal, natural gas, and other hydrocarbon resources, which have the potential to accelerate global warming if developed. At the same time, Montana, with vast agricultural plains and abundant wind, sun, and geothermal resources, is well positioned to produce clean, renewable energy. At course end, students will be armed with the knowledge and experience needed to play a positive role in shaping our energy system and future climate for the state, and the Rocky Mountain region.


Enrollment will be limited to ten [10] students. Our courses are multidisciplinary and our students come from all majors. There are no academic prerequisites for any of our courses. The best background is a sense of curiosity, a willingness to take responsibility for your academic growth, and a love of adventure. No prior backcountry experience is necessary, but this is a physically demanding course and students are advised to arrive good physical condition. This course takes place in high elevation settings and some backpacking sections will be physically challenging.

WRFI accepts students on a rolling admission basis and will review applications immediately upon receiving them. Currently, WRFI is accepting applications for all 2018 courses.

The first payment of 25% of tuition will be due three weeks after acceptance.

Apply Here!


$3950 per student includes tuition, dinner food, on-course transportation from Missoula, MT and return, and group camping and cooking gear. Please inquire with WRFI about renting a touring bicycle and associated touring equipment for the duration of the course. Lunch and breakfast food must be supplied by students. Required course readings will need to be downloaded, printed out, and brought on the course. An additional $310 filing fee is required to receive academic credit for the course from the University of Montana.

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