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Wyoming Authors Release New Edition of Wyoming Ecology Book

October 20, 2014
book cover featuring mountains in the distance
Ecological wonders of Wyoming are described in the second edition of “Mountains and Plains: The Ecology of Wyoming Landscapes.” (Yale University Press)

Twenty years after the first edition was published, author and University of Wyoming Professor Emeritus Dennis Knight is happy to see the second edition of “Mountains and Plains: The Ecology of Wyoming Landscapes” on his desk -- this time with color illustrations, additional chapters and new maps.

The first edition (1994, Yale University Press) became a popular resource for land managers, teachers, scientists, students and enthusiasts interested in the ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains and western Great Plains.

The second edition, by Knight, George Jones, William Reiners and William Romme (October 2014, Yale University Press), synthesizes research done during the last 20 years on topics such as the effects of climate change, fire management, habitat fragmentation and wolf reintroduction.

Knight, former chair of the UW Department of Botany, invited the others to work on the book with him because, he says, “They were exceptionally helpful with the first edition and it was natural for them to become more directly involved this time. Each of them brought experience that I valued highly.”

Jones, associate director of the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, has expertise in wetlands and sagebrush ecology; Reiners is professor emeritus in the UW Department of Botany with expertise in ecosystem dynamics; and Romme is professor emeritus at Colorado State University with expertise in forest ecology and the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

The book covers topics ranging from mountain forests to badlands and sand dunes, desert shrublands to riparian woodlands, and from Yellowstone to the Black Hills. One new chapter describes marshes and fens; another describes the natural history and ecology of the Laramie Basin. In addition, the authors discuss current issues associated with sustainable land management.

“‘Mountains and Plains’ is an unusual book because it is both scientifically accurate and outstandingly accessible,” says Carlos Martinez del Rio, director of UW’s Biodiversity Institute, which supported the book. “Its pages use clear language and informative illustrations to describe the ecological wonders of our state. While the book focuses on Wyoming, it is relevant to neighboring states and is written for a general audience.”

The book’s website ( “provides a means by which readers can ask questions or contribute information that we did not include,” Knight says.

A reception to celebrate the book’s release is scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 5, at 5 p.m. at the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center (10th and Lewis St. in Laramie). The celebration includes a short concert, followed by comments by Martinez del Rio and the authors. Afterward, books will be available for purchase and signing.

The UW Biodiversity Institute hosts the free public event. The institute focuses on research, education and outreach about plants, animals and fungi in Wyoming, and this book is part of its Natural History Publications series. Learn more at


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Hear author Dennis Knight explain why it was important to update the popular ecology book.

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