Friday, January 22, 2010

Citizen Science link featured on NPS website

If you visit the National Park Service website this week (until January 28th) at, one of the rotating series of images at the top of the page is of citizen scientists at work at Mount Rainier National Park. This is great national exposure for a new and very exciting program.

In a sense, "citizen science" has been going on here for years. We've always had volunteers helping out in our resource management programs: surveying owls and ducks in the spring, measuring debris accumulation in our rivers following floods, and helping to set beetle monitoring traps. Starting in 2008, however, the program took on a more formal shape. With the help of the Student Conservation Association's Mount Rainier Recovery Corps, members of the public were recruited and trained to help with specific data gathering projects, including soundscape monitoring and amphibian surveys. Another SCA intern was hired last summer to continue the program, and slowly a core group of individuals from the community have come on board to help throughout the summer months.

Sometimes the work is cold, wet, or buggy. Often it involves trekking deep into the most remote parts of Mount Rainier National Park. Occassionally the team camps out overnight. But the experience has ultimately been rewarding for the participants, and the data collected will provide valuable insights to park managers. The amphibian surveys, for example, are establishing baseline information for understanding how our frog and salamandar popopulations change over time, and how these numbers may be affected by things like climate change and polution. Soundscape monitoring tracks the degree to which human-generated sounds, from automobile and airplane engines to construction and logging activities, have penetrated the park's wilderness.

The Citizen Science program will continue this summer. The Citizen Science Coordinator internship is sponsored this year by Washington's National Park Fund (which is already raising money to support next year's volunteer program). Anyone with a background in science who has wilderness travel skills and is interested in working with public volunteers is encouraged to apply for the 12-week position, which will run from late June through part of September. Housing will be provided. Apply online at the Student Conservation Association website.

In addition, if you're interested in serving as a member of our Citizen Science Team, complete an online application, or send a resume and cover letter directly to me. Please note a few key points in the position description:
  • These are not full-time positions. We're looking for people who can help out for a day or two at a time periodically throughout the summer. Housing is not provided.
  • Some of the work is strenuous and involves long hikes at high elevation. Some of the work requires overnight camping in the backcountry. We're looking for people with existing wilderness skills.
  • A basic background in science is helpful but not required. We will provide training.
More information is available from Volunteer Program Manager Kevin Bacher (360-569-2211 ext. 3385) and Park Biologist Barbara Samora (360-569-2211 ext. 3372).

Come get involved, help us learn more about Mount Rainier's ecosystems, and become a stewardship partner for Mount Rainier National Park.

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