National Geographic : 1990 Jun
G EOGRA JUNE 1990 GEOGRAPHICA Yellowstone Booming, Blooming After Fires Visitors to Yellowstone National Park this summer will find a riot of wildflowers, close-to-normal animal populations, and huge numbers of their fellow humans. That's the word from scientists who have been closely monitoring the park's plants and animals since the giant fires of 1988. "The lodgepole pine sprouted right on schedule last spring-the new forest has been born," says John Varley, the park's S b chief ofresearch. "The meadows were just glorious last sum mer," he continued. "Along the northern range where sagebrush grassland burned, it was by any measure the ..- -- -- most wonderful wild flower show in any body's memory." Most of the flowers, fertilized by ashes, resprouted from root stocks. The show will be repeated this summer as flowers burst from last year's seeds. The burned forest floors, however, will take another few years to regain their ground cover. Varley says that the park has had "an explosion of biological diversity." The fires spread in an uneven mosaic pattern, which promotes diversity of regrowth. Small animals such as rodents sur vived at rates higher than expected. Elk and bison counts dropped by less than 20 percent; much of the mortality was due to a combination of 1988's drought conditions and the severe winter that followed rather than to the fires. Two grizzly bears are missing (or their radio collars are no longer transmitting), but no black bears seem to have been lost. Fish populations appear to be about normal. Large increases in the number of birds are expected after an insect boom that is currently under way. Visitors are booming too: 1989 was a record year for attendance. Oh, yes. Varley had predicted in 1988 that mosquitoes would soon be back in force. Are they? "Absolutely," he says, "there's no shortage of them." - D AVID JEFFERY Author of "Yellowstone: The GreatFires of 1988," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, February1989 The Potato Museum: No Half-Baked Idea n the big-time museum world of Washington, D. C., it's small pota toes. But Meredith and Thomas Hughes hope that moving the Potato Museum away from the nation's capital will be the first step in turning it into a full-fledged, full-time food museum. The Potato Museum originated from a project for a class Tom taught at the International School in Brussels, Bel gium (NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, May 1982). He and his wife began collecting potato-related items, and when they moved to Washington in 1983, they put the collection in the basement of their town house, displaying it only by appointment. BOB ZELLAR They must vacate their town house this summer and hope to garner sup port to create a larger, better-funded home for their collection. Meredith and Tom are "serious but not solemn" about potatoes -they call the museum newsletter "Peelings." But they feel that scholars have neglected food, a fundamental part of everyday life. A major food museum, accessible to tourists and researchers, would help. The Hugheses hope to work full time tending their museum's library and archives. They also hope to expand the collection, which has everything from 4,000-year-old fossilized Peruvi an potatoes and a photograph of Mari lyn Monroe in a potato-sack dress to tape-recorded songs about potatoes and several sizes of-what else?-Mr. Potato Head.