Yellowstone bighorn research association

Richard Fifarek

Acting President

Richard Fifarek has been actively engaged with the Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association for over three decades, as a teacher and in leadership roles within the organization. During his tenure as president of the Board, Rich helped oversee the construction of new facilities while helping to grow the camp’s client base and restoration efforts. Retired from Southern Illinois University, Rich continues to conduct research and consulting in economic geology, with a particular focus on the origin of hydrothermal deposits related to igneous activity in both continental and oceanic settings. Rich has a  Ph.D. from Oregon State University and has worked briefly for the US Geological Survey and several mineral exploration companies. He resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife Katheryn Fifarek.

John Weber

Vice President

John Weber did degrees at Moraine Valley Community College (A.S.), Southern Illinois University (B.S., and M.S.), and Northwestern University (Ph.D. Advisor: Bob Speed).  He is currently a Professor of Geology at Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI, USA) where he teaches and does research with undergraduate Geology majors. He also teaches geology field school nearly every summer in Red Lodge, MT (USA) and in Baku, Azerbaijan.  His research mainly involves using GPS satellite data, and structural geology, geochronology and geomorphology techniques to study active and fossil deformation in Trinidad and Tobago, in Slovenia and the circum-Adriatic, and in Azerbaijan.  He also studies meteorite impact craters, and regularly consults for the petroleum and hydrology industries.  John was elected a GSA Fellow in 2014. Over his tenure with the YBRA, John has served on the board for over two decades, working as a councilor and then vice-president.

Jinny Sisson


Jinny Sisson has been passionate about YBRA since she first taught there under the egis of Bill Bonini and Princeton University.  She continued teaching with University of Pennsylvania and then was asked to join the YBRA Board. She has held various position on the board including councilor, vice-president, president (for four years), past president (for 10 years) and is currently secretary. During the academic year, she is an instructional professor at University of Houston. She is a co-director of their field camp program that has been sending students to YBRA for over 17 years. She has been awarded the Geological Society of America ExxonMobil Field Camp Excellence award as well as the AAPG Grover E. Murray Award for teaching excellence. Both her husband Will and son Alex enjoy spending time at YBRA and have done volunteer work around camp. 

Jack Bonini


Jack is a retired IBM Consulting Senior Partner and Executive, where he led Business & Operations Strategy and Mergers and Acquisitions practices and led numerous client consulting engagements for senior leadership teams over his 25 year IBM Consulting career. Prior to IBM for 10 years, Jack worked for Procter & Gamble, Chemical Bank and was an executive at several start-up companies. Jack’s educational background is in Chemical Engineering (Princeton BSE) and Finance (New York University MBA). Jack joined the YBRA Board as Treasurer in 2024 after several years on the Advisory Board. Jack and his family have a long association with the YBRA dating back to the late1940’s when his father Bill attended the Princeton-YBRA Field Camp as Geological Engineering undergraduate prior to joining the Princeton faculty in the early 1950’s. Jack grew up spending summers on Mount Maurice as his father, Bill Bonini brought his family west while leading and teaching the Princeton-YBRA Field Geology course and doing geophysics research in the region. His father Bill served as President and on the board of the YBRA for many years during his 50+ year career at Princeton.  During college Jack worked at the YBRA Camp as Camp Handyman one summer, and together with his family was instrumental in facilitating the fundraising for construction of a cabin in honor of his parents Rose and Bill Bonini after the death of his father in 2016. Jack can be found recreating with his family hiking, flyfishing, and skiing in Colorado, and enjoying the beaches and fishing the waters along the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Christopher Coughenour


Christopher Coughenour is Associate Professor in geology at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown. He is a YBRA alumnus and advocate for research and education in nature’s laboratory.  Chris’ interests lie in Earth surface processes, particularly at the interface of hydrology and sediment movement.  This serves as a vehicle for exploring stream and estuary function, and also in interpreting these depositional environments from the stratigraphic record. He has conducted field work in places such as Alaska, Argentina, Egypt, and the Central Appalachians. Several of these projects have involved collaboration with paleontologists to better understand the sediments in which dinosaurs and other fauna are buried to better grasp the paleoecology of these systems.  Chris believes strongly in YBRA’s mission of helping to facilitate meaningful engagement with the natural world around us as we seek to better understand it and our role in it. Chris has a B.S. in Physics and Ph.D. in Environmental Science and has earned both the Phi Eta Sigma Teacher of the Year and Edward A. Vizzini Natural Sciences Teacher of the Year awards.

Matt Knight


Matt Knight is currently the Training and Development Manager with Sibanye-Stillwater, the operator of the Stillwater and East Boulder mines, both platinum group metal mining operations on the front range of the Beartooth Mountains. Matt’s background in geology includes an expertise in mineral exploration and production. Matt has held various positions at Stillwater, including Safety Manager, Human Resources Manager and Chief Geologist at the Stillwater Mine. Matt joined the YBRA board in 2022 and lives just north of camp in Park City, Montana with his family. He has a B.S in Geological Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and an M.S. from the University of Arizona in Economic Geology.

Jason Schein


Jason Schein has led citizen-science paleontology expeditions from YBRA since 2010.  He founded the Elevation Science Institute (formerly known as the Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute) in 2017 and the organization has thrived under his leadership ever since, hosting people from around the world who visit camp and the region to find and excavate 150 million year old dinosaurs and learn about the region’s diverse ecosystems.  In his extensive professional experience, he has developed a diverse slate of engaging educational programming in the fields of natural history, geology, and paleontology for audiences of all ages, specializing in creating unique, hands-on experiences to help people experience the power of science.           
His scientific research projects have led him across the globe, from Alabama to Montana and even to Argentinian Patagonia, to study an array of fascinating creatures, including modern echinoderms, ancient foraminifera, fish and turtles, mosasaurs, and of course dinosaurs! Jason’s love of our planet’s history continually leads him to explore a vast range of subjects, including Mesozoic (primarily Jurassic and Cretaceous) vertebrate marine and terrestrial faunas, paleoecology, paleobiogeography, faunistics, taphonomy, biostratigraphy, functional morphology, sedimentology, and general natural history.
Jason is also a writer, Master Naturalist (Montana), and outdoorsman.  When he isn’t working, you can find Jason exploring his current city, Philadelphia, or hiking, hunting, fishing, and generally sharing his love of the natural world with his family.  

Jacob Thacker


Jacob Thacker is an Assistant Professor of Earth Science at Montana State University Billings. He is a field-based geologist with mapping and research projects in the Beartooth Mountains and Bighorn Basin, as well as in the Rocky Mountains and lower Colorado River in general. Jacob has previously worked for the NPS in Yellowstone, the USGS in Flagstaff, AZ, as a core logger at Stillwater Mine, Field Instructor for the Yellowstone Association (now Yellowstone Forever), and a Field Geologist for the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. He is currently Vice President of the Montana Geological Society.
Jacob has a B.Sc. from Cleveland State University, a M.Sc. from Montana State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico.


Advisory Board

The YBRA is a non-profit organization that was established in 1936 to "further fundamental geological science and the training of students under exceptionally favorable conditions."

YBRA conducts geology and other applied field science in the northern Rocky Mountains of Montana and Wyoming.

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