If you're interested in the natural sciences and would like to volunteer some time amidst some of the most spectacular scenery in America this summer, you may be interested in Glacier National Park's Citizen Scientists program.
Glacier is renowned for its wildlife as well as its scenery, so park officials say visitors are often surprised to learn that relatively little information is available about many species that are found in the area.
Filling that gap is the purpose of the Citizen Science program, which "trains individuals to identify, observe and record information on mountain goats, pikas, loons and invasive plants." The program is coordinated by The Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center (CCRLC) in the park.
Why those species?
A spokesperson explains that these species have been targeted because of their sensitivity to changes in habitat, human disturbances and, in the case of invasive plants, their threat to native biodiversity. Despite the importance of such information, there is little information available about the distribution of these species throughout the park.
Any member of the general public is welcome to become a Citizen Scientist for any of three current projects by attending a one day training session that covers background biology, species identification and procedures for ethical wildlife observation.
High Country Citizen Scientists observe mountain goat and pika behavior at selected sites to assist with population and distribution estimates. Both species are habitat and temperature sensitive and may be affected by climate change. Training dates are July 8 and July 18.
Invasive Plant Citizen Scientists learn to identify five targeted invasive plants and to use GPS units to mark their locations while hiking along some of the park's 700+ miles of trails. In addition to regular training sessions, the park will also host the second annual Noxious Weed Blitz, during which participants will assist the park by pulling targeted weeds. Training dates are July 7, 19 and 28.
Common Loon Citizen Scientists gather information on the distribution and reproduction of Common Loons on 45 high priority lakes in the park to understand more about population trends and nesting success. Contact the CCRLC for more information on this program.
The benefit of Citizen Science is more than just data points from survey results; perhaps even more important is the development of an informed group of volunteers who are involved in active stewardship of the park.
If you'd like to sign up for one of these sessions, if you'd like to participate but can't attend on the scheduled dates, or if you need more details, you can contact the CCRLC at (406) 888-7986. Additional training sessions will be scheduled based on interest.
Support for the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center’s Citizens Science Program is provided by the Glacier National Park Fund, the Park’s non-profit fundraising partner, in partnership with the Unilever U.S. Foundation and the NPS Climate Change Response Program, a partner of the National Council for Science and the Environment.