Expect the Unexpected at Dunrovin Ranch

Kristina Abernathy

Expect the Unexpected at Dunrovin Ranch

After retiring from a 35-year career in wildlife and fisheries research, biometrician SuzAnne Miller returned to her home state of Montana to open a small boutique guest ranch where horses are partners, and guests are friends.

Not your typical ranch, Dunrovin Ranch offers the unique opportunity to connect with nature from anywhere in the world. In 2011, scientists from the University of Montana approached SuzAnne about installing a 57-foot high camera known as "osprey cam" to study bird behavior on the ranch. She agreed, and when she turned off the webcam at the end of the first breeding season, she was surprised by what happened,

"I got scores of emails and phone calls from people saying, 'Please don't turn it off. We want to watch your ranch because we can see beyond the nest, all of our activities, the horses coming and going,' and they were fascinated by it."

By the following year, thousands of viewers were watching. The popularity of the webcams led to many more cameras being installed on the grounds and the creation of an interactive social engagement platform called DaysAtDunrovin where everyone can interact in a Virtual Village centered on the ranch. Each one offers a portal for viewers to watch the daily happenings on the ranch from their computers. In addition to the ospreys, the cameras capture the horses, donkeys, and other wildlife as well. 

SuzAnne of Dunrovin Ranch.

As SuzAnne says, "Having a portal to a natural place where lots of fun things are happening, real things - that's a whole different experience than watching TV. It's just a whole different thing."

And, if you're so inclined, you can also visit the ranch in person. Each year they host thousands of guests from all over the world. 

The philosophy behind the whole endeavor is to help people connect with nature and animals through outdoor learning experiences. And, in the process, they'll likely learn something about themselves as well. 

SuzAnne likes to think of the ranch’s Virtual Village as an online third place. 

"The first place is home, and the second place is work. And then there's that third place that you can drop into any time and have a fun, friendly conversation that allows you to escape from home and work, which are often laden with certain expectations."

SuzAnne’s enthusiasm for the ranch and its inhabitants is contagious. Join her for her Guest Speaker session, Expect the Unexpected at Dunrovin Ranch, Friday, March 18, as she gives you a tour through a portal of multiple web cameras and describes how they're preparing for Harriet the osprey's spring return. 

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