Invisible Boundaries: Exhibit Offers
Perspectives of Yellowstone Migrations

prosek silhouettes invisible boundaries
Jesse Bryant
I was living in Jackson, Wyoming when the May 2016 edition of National Geographic came out. The little town was in a flurry of excitement. It was the first time the historied magazine had devoted an entire edition to one topic, and that topic just so happened to be our home. The issue’s title was “Yellowstone: The Battle for the American West.” And for a few weeks you couldn’t enter a single public space without someone nearby with their noses buried deep in the pages.
The edition was a comprehensive look at the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from an ecological, cultural, and historical perspective. It examined everything from the ongoing culture wars over wolf reintroduction to the massive yearly elk migrations through the ecosystem’s more than 34,000 square miles. The project brought together ecologists, artists, historians, and local authorities to tell the most comprehensive print story that has been told about the “largest nearly intact temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth.”
invisible boundaries prosek
Jesse Bryant
At about the same time, four of the key voices featured in the historic issue — Arthur Middleton ’07 M.E.M., an ecologist and former Donnelley Postdoctoral Fellow at F&ES, artist James Prosek ‘97, photographer Joe Riis, and videographer Jenny Nichols — began developing a complementary museum exhibit that focused on presenting the scientific realities of one of America’s most sacred spaces. Their collaboration eventually yielded the groundbreaking exhibition, Invisible Boundaries: Exploring Yellowstone’s Great Animal Migrations. After a long residence at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, Invisible Boundaries has come to the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. The exhibit, which opened last week, will be on display until March 25, 2018.
The interdisciplinary exhibition features a diversity of media to bring us from New Haven to Yellowstone in a heartbeat. A flowing, one-hundred-square-foot 3D map illustrating Yellowstone’s elk migrations in real time brings reveals the invisible patterns charted by Middleton within the enormous ecosystem. Aerial videography from Nichols places the visitor in the frigid alpine with migrating mule deer and elk as they cross the remote reaches of Wyoming and Montana, while intimate camera-trap photography from Riis brings one face-to-face with everyone from massive grizzly bears to a herd of pronghorn antelope fording the Snake River.
The exhibition is united by more than 20 stunning original paintings from Prosek. His works range from intimate watercolors of individual moose which challenge our assumptions about the natural world to massive paintings reaching floor to ceiling that do well to celebrate the wonder of life through sheer scale and awe. In addition to the original exhibit, some historical pieces from the Peabody Museum’s own collection to add to the story of how important the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has been to the birth of conservation in America.
The exhibition is a gorgeous blend of science museum and fine art space, an important ode to one of the most important places in understanding the American West, and an unmissable adventure for those fascinated by the diverse web of life on our planet.

Support for Invisible Boundaries was provided by the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies. 
The Peabody Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday Noon to 5 p.m. It is close on Mondays. Admission is free for those with a valid Yale ID. Thursday afternoons 2 to 5 p.m. the museum operates on a pay-as-you-wish system. Otherwise, it is $13 for adults, $9 for seniors, and $6 for children.
Jesse Bryant is a first-year masters student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
A 3D relief projection map illustrating Yellowstone’s elk migrations in real time.
PUBLISHED: September 22, 2017
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.