Category Archives: Science

Citizen science opportunities and trainings announced for 2019

From a Glacier Park news release . . .

Citizen Science Opportunities and Trainings Announced for 2019
Public Invited to Participate in Wildlife and Plant Research

West Glacier, MT –This summer, the public is invited to help the park track and study important species of concern through its citizen science program. The program allows participants to explore the park and learn about important park resources while collecting valuable data for park managers.

One citizen scientist said the experience was an “excuse to go into the park, sit down for an hour and just search with scope and binoculars—the greatest and most effective and cost-efficient therapy out there!”

Participants can help out with several projects on an ongoing basis, or attend a one-time citizen science event.

Citizen Science Projects

People who would like to collect data on a variety of species of concern and can commit to completing a minimum of three surveys should sign-up for a one-day training session to learn how to identify, observe, and record species information.

Once trained, citizen scientists are free to collect data during their own scheduled hiking trips in the park. Please contact the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center at Glac_Citizen_Science@nps.gov or 406-888-7986 to sign-up for training or for more information.

Scheduled training dates for all ongoing citizen science projects are listed below. Additional training sessions may be scheduled based on interest.

–      Common Loon Citizen Science

Gather information on the distribution and reproduction of common loons to understand more about population trends and nesting success.

West Glacier training dates:  May 7, May 14, June 27, July 9

St. Mary training date:  May 29

–      High Country Citizen Science

Document mountain goats and pikas at selected sites to assist with population and distribution estimates and genetic mapping. These species are habitat and temperature sensitive, and may be affected by changing climate.

West Glacier training dates: June 4, June 15, July 16, July 29

St. Mary training date:  June 26

–      Huckleberry Phenology Citizen Science 

Huckleberries are an important food source for wildlife, including grizzly bears. The park is collecting data to understand how weather and other factors influence the phenology, or timing, of berry ripeness.

West Glacier training date: June 6

–      Lynx Camera Trapping

Canada lynx are a rare and elusive predator native to Glacier National Park. The goal of this project is to learn the status of lynx populations in the park using camera traps to determine where they are currently present. Citizen scientists can help this research project by hiking to camera traps along trails to check and take down cameras. This is a new project, made possible by donor funding from the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

West Glacier training date: August 1 (evening)

–      Hawk Watch Raptor Migration Counts

One of the most important migration routes for golden eagles and other raptors on their way from northern breeding grounds to warmer climates passes through the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park. Citizen scientists count migrating raptors at Mount Brown or Lake McDonald Lodge.

West Glacier training date: August 27

Citizen Science Special Events

 Noxious Weed Blitz on July 18, 2019
Participants learn about the ecological impacts and identification of noxious weeds and assist in hand pulling.

July Wildlife Crossings Map-a-Thon
The park will hold a map-a-thon this summer to document wildlife crossings along US Highway 2. Multiple workshops will be held in July in West Glacier and East Glacier. Participant observations will help prioritize locations for wildlife crossing structures or other mitigation efforts to help keep wildlife migrating throughout the Crown of the Continent.

Alpine Bird Bioblitz on July 19, 2019
Participants will document and learn about twelve of Glacier’s alpine bird species.

Fall Fungus Bioblitz on October 12- 13, 2019
Participants team up with mycologists to identify as many species of fungus as they can find.

Citizen Science Program Information
Since 2005, the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center in Glacier National Park has managed the Glacier Citizen Science Program. It relies on trained citizen scientists to collect population data on species of interest to the park. Citizen science training informs participants about threats to native plants and animals that may result from human disturbance, climate change, and invasive species. The citizen science program not only provides valuable data to park managers, but also creates an informed group of people involved in active Glacier National Park stewardship.

Glacier National Park Conservancy donors provide nearly all funding for the park’s citizen science program. For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/rlc/crown/citizen-science.htm or contact the office at Glac_Citizen_Science@nps.gov or 406-888-7986.

www.nps.gov

 

How to bring dark skies back in an increasingly developed world

Rural and urban night skies - Jeremy Stanley, Flickr
Rural and urban night skies – Jeremy Stanley, Flickr

If you wish to become well-informed about light pollution and the dark skies initiative, this article by Ethan Siegel is an excellent place to start. Dr. Siegel is a well known “science writer, astrophysicist, science communicator & NASA columnist.” . . .

For most of us here on planet Earth, navigating the world at night is just a little more challenging than during daytime. Without the Sun’s bright light to illuminate our world, our eyes do their best to adapt. Our color-sensing cones move back in our eyes while the monochrome-sensitive rods move forward. Our pupils dilate to larger diameters, letting more light in. Even in the wild, the Moon and stars provide enough light for a sufficiently dark-adapted eye to make out shapes and objects.

Evolutionarily, this was a spectacularly useful adaptation. Human vision may be optimally suited to daytime vision, but the ways our eyes adjust also allow us to perceive the Universe far beyond our world. Unfortunately, our connection with the night sky has been severed by a truly human endeavor: artificial lighting. While the benefits to public safety and commerce are inarguable, the tradeoff is unnecessary. Light pollution may a worse problem than ever, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

From a truly dark site — on a moonless night where there’s less artificial light generated on Earth than is incoming from the night sky — thousands of stars, multiple planets, the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, and up to four other galaxies beyond our own can be seen. Yet dark sites are becoming harder and harder to find, as the rise in artificial lighting has followed humanity wherever our species has settled. 80% of the entire world, including 99% of Europe and the United States, lives under light-polluted skies, where the Milky Way is never visible even under ideal weather conditions.

Read more . . .

Satellite imagery helps spot Glacier Park’s huckleberry patches

Huckleberry shrubs turn bright red in fall - USGS photo
Huckleberry shrubs turn bright red in fall – USGS photo

Researchers have developed a new tool to spot huckleberry patches in Glacier Park . . .

The average huckleberry is about as big around as a pencil eraser. But now we can spot them from space.

Several years of refinement have allowed researchers in Glacier National Park to tease apart landscape photos and pinpoint huckleberry patches. The method works on both aerial and satellite photos.

That could qualify as classified intelligence for some secrecy-bound huckleberry hunters. U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist Tabitha Graves and biologist Nate Michael joked they could be endangering themselves by revealing berry hot spots.

Read more . . .

Predicting how forests in the western US will respond to changing climate

Flathead National Forest - view of Whitefish Divide
Flathead National Forest – view of Whitefish Divide

Here’s an interesting research paper on predicting western forest response to climate change . . .

On the mountain slopes of the western United States, climate can play a major role in determining which tree communities will thrive in the harshest conditions, according to new work from Carnegie’s Leander Anderegg and University of Washington’s Janneke Hille Ris Lambers.

Their findings, published in Ecology Letters, are an important step in understanding how forest growth will respond to a climate altered by human activity.

As researchers try to anticipate how climate change will affect forest ecosystems, it is crucial to understand the factors that influence how forest habitats change over time — including both environmental conditions and competition for resources. One of the oldest ecological principles asserts that competition between trees will constrain growth under mild conditions and climate will constrain growth under harsh conditions.

Read more . . .Read more . . .

GPS map vividly illustrates wolf territoriality

Map Uses GPS Locations to Show How Territorial Wolf Packs Are - map by Voyageurs Wolf Project
Map Uses GPS Locations to Show How Territorial Wolf Packs Are – map by Voyageurs Wolf Project

Here’s an interesting find by the guy who operates the Twisted Sifter blog . . .

In a recent post by the Voyageurs Wolf Project, they demonstrate how territorial wolf packs are through the mapping of 68,000 individual GPS locations from 7 wolves in different packs from the summer of 2018. They explain:

‘Each wolf’s collar took locations every 20 min (with the exception of the northernmost pack which took locations every 4 hr starting in October) for the duration of the summer. The last photo of the post shows the name and territory of each pack. There are a few packs that we have had collared in the past 2 years that we were not able to get GPS-collars on this year.’

‘This detailed GPS-data is incredibly valuable for understanding pack boundaries and also for our predation research. We visited every spot these wolves spent more than 20 minutes to determine if the wolves made a kill. This required an estimated 5,000 miles of hiking this past summer from our field crew!’

Read more . . .

Thesis discusses environmental governance in the Transboundary Flathead

North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 - by William K. Walker
North Fork Flathead River, May 16, 2018 – by William K. Walker

Many of you have met and interacted with the steady stream of University of Montana geography students visiting the North Fork over past years. One of them, Jedd Sankar-Gorton, used his studies of the Transboundary Flathead as the basis for his master’s thesis. Here’s an introduction to his work written by Lois Walker…

Jedd Sankar-Gorton recently graduated with an M.S. degree in Geography from the University of Montana. His master’s thesis focuses on efforts to secure joint U.S.-Canadian protections for the upper reaches of the Flathead River from 1974-2014. It’s worth a read. For the benefit of future researchers, he has pulled together in one place an extensive body of reference material related to preservation efforts in the upper Flathead.

While this study primarily discusses proposed coal mining in British Columbia, it draws attention to other potential environmental threats to the river, as well. In the broader context, he highlights the thorny diplomatic challenges that governments around the world face as they try to design and implement effective management of transboundary waters. The bottom line is that, although we have secured some basic protections for the Flathead, there is still much that can be done to improve dialogue with our Canadian neighbors and craft more coordinated environmental management of the river system.

Read/download:
40 Years on the International Flathead River: An Assessment of Environmental Governance by Jedd Sankar-Gorton (PDF, 1.35MB)

How Doug Chadwick’s Willful Optimism Just Might Save A Species

Book cover - Tracking Gobi Grizzlies by Douglas Chadwick
Book cover – Tracking Gobi Grizzlies by Douglas Chadwick

Montana Public Radio did a nice segment on North Forker Doug Chadwick and his new book Tracking Gobi Grizzlies: Surviving Beyond the Back of Beyond. Thanks to Patti Craig-Hart for spotting this one . . .

‘I mean I don’t know where all this is going, but I can’t believe we’re letting the fabric of the natural world unravel without more of a hullabaloo about it because it’s essentially our greater selves.’ — Doug Chadwick

Sarah Aronson: What do you call it, you say every naturalist is . . .

Doug Chadwick: A stunted 11 year-old. They’re an 11 year-old who saw a rock and just has to go turn it over and go “Ooooo wow. What’s that?!” And they don’t change.

There’s a lot of wonder in that.

Well look, the earth offers an infinite supply of it [wonder] and I’ve never figured out how anybody can be bored. And people say, “Well, but I’m not into that nature stuff,” and that confuses me too because, look, there are 10 trillion cells in our body—human cells. There are more microbial cells than that in our body and they consist of thousands of species of yeast and bacteria and archaea, another microbe group, and there’s more microbial DNA is us than there is human DNA, so whenever someone says, “Well you know I’m just not into that nature stuff,” I go, “But nature’s totally into you!”

Read more/listen to the full interview . . .

Humans have been altering tropical forests for at least 45K years

Tropical forest vegetaton - Patrick Roberts
Tropical forest vegetaton – Patrick Roberts

Here’s a thought provoking scientific study. It appears that people have been altering tropical forests for a long time — “sustainably” in some cases, but altering them nevertheless . . .

The first review of the global impact of humans on tropical forests in the ancient past shows that humans have been altering these environments for at least 45,000 years. This counters the view that tropical forests were pristine natural environments prior to modern agriculture and industrialization. The study, published today in Nature Plants, found that humans have in fact been having a dramatic impact on such forest ecologies for tens of thousands of years, through techniques ranging from controlled burning of sections of forest to plant and animal management to clear-cutting. Although previous studies had looked at human impacts on specific tropical forest locations and ecosystems, this is the first to synthesize data from all over the world.

Read more . . .

“Montana’s Pioneer Botanists” available!

Rachel Potter, prominent North Forker and NFPA member, passed along the following exciting announcement . . .

Montana's Pioneer Botanists Book
Montana’s Pioneer Botanists Book

Dear North Forkers:

I am pleased to announce that Montana’s Pioneer Botanists: Exploring the Mountains and Prairies is now on sale at the Polebridge Merc.  It includes essays by Jerry DeSanto, retired Glacier National Park North Fork Ranger.  Price:  $29.95.

Some of you will remember that after Jerry retired, he wrote biographies for a book to be called Plant Hunters of the Pacific Northwest.   Jerry was the perfect contributor to the project.  His background in history and knowledge and passion for plants resulted in three wonderful stories on David Lyall (1817-1895), R. S. Williams (1859-1945) and his good friend Klaus Lackschewitz (1911-1995).   Jerry did years of research that included travelling to the National Archives in Washington D.C. and spending day after day digging through herbarium specimens in various Pacific Northwest herbaria. This was pre-internet.  Notes for a fourth essay on Sereno Watson were in his truck at the Polebridge Ranger Station the winter he got sick.

As the decades went by and the main players aged, it became clear that the Pacific Northwest book was not going to happen. The Montana Native Plant Society (MNPS) decided to publish a book with the original Montana essays and some new ones.  My main motivation was seeing Jerry’s essay’s published.  The book includes essays by 17 authors on 30 different botanists. Naturally, Jerry’s are among the best, and being rich with detail, comprise a hefty percent of the book. The essays are illustrated with portraits, historic photos and photos of flowers and landscapes (including a handful of Jerry’s), as well as old and new botanical artwork.

There is more about the book at:  www.mtnativeplants.org.  We are updating purchasing info and adding reviews and more, so check back periodically.

Go to the Merc and check it out!

On another note, Jerry’s Alpine Wildflowers of Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park was scanned by the MNPS and is available to view online at http://www.lib.umt.edu/asc/alpine-wildflowers/default.php.  Jerry’s papers have been accessioned into the Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana.  An Rachel Potterindex can be found at: http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv94952.

Rachel Potter

Impromptu ‘Science March’ in Polebridge

Science March in Polebridge, Apr 22, 2017 - Debo Powers photo
Science March in Polebridge, Apr 22, 2017 – Debo Powers photo

Debo Powers reports . . .

Visiting biologists staged an impromptu “Science March” in Polebridge on Earth Day, April 22, in solidarity with hundreds of thousands in Washington DC and around the globe who marched to support science and research-based policy. Several North Fork residents joined in making the statement in front of the Polebridge Mercantile.