Visiting Glacier National Park is typically an awe-inspiring experience, especially for school children. These experiences are made even more special when coupled with the sighting of a nesting loon or an elusive pika in the backcountry. This Citizen Science program will provide local high school students with in-depth information about species of concern in the park, including mountain goats, pikas and loons, and challenge them to use the scientific method to develop their own research questions about park wildlife. The students will then have opportunities to collect data and observe wildlife in the field and will be provided access to large park datasets to analyze for answering their research questions. They will also learn how to create GIS maps to display their findings. This project has become a model within the National Park Service and encourages students to learn that there is more to science than working in a lab wearing white coats.
This program is a safety net for the park’s natural resources – especially in the backcountry where the park has only limited staff to conduct baseline monitoring. The reliable data that is collected during these surveys will aid with early detection of ecosystem changes and provide information about wildlife and plant species identified as priorities.
Under the direction of a Citizen Science Coordinator, two college interns will be hired and gain experience in volunteer management, scientific data collection, analysis and reporting. This research will enable the park to begin addressing a growing list of research and monitoring needs concerning loons, mountain goats, pikas, invasive plants, golden eagles, and mercury in dragonflies to support management decisions while the hands-on introduction to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) may inspire students to pursue careers or make choices to support parks and conservation in the future.
Funding for this project will support the 2016 program, including the staffing, interns and equipment needed to facilitate the monitoring of key plants and animals.
While federal support provides for day-to-day operations, this kind of project is only possible through partnership and community support. To learn more about how you can help, visit glacierconservancy.org.
To learn more about how you can help, visit glacierconservancy.org.