When I was little, as in from the age when I began forming memories until I was in school full-time, I distinctly recall filling the majority of my time with three activities; playing outside, building things with Lego blocks, and watching TV. My two favorite TV shows were Sesame Street and Zoobilee Zoo (this show seems slightly creepy to me now…). Sesame Street influenced me so much growing up that for a period of my life (maybe 4th through 6th grade), I was seriously reconsidering my plans to become a marine biologist and decided that I wanted to work in Jim Henson’s creature shop making muppets instead. Obviously neither of those things happened but my childhood love and my current career path met one another this week when the National Park Service, Sesame Street, and the National Park Foundation teamed up!
My semester ended the first week of May. For many students, the end of a semester signals the beginning of summer and a time of relaxation. For myself and Dave the end of the semester signals one of the busiest times of the year for both of us – the field season. Dave’s field work is a bit more intense than mine. As mentioned in previous posts, he spends his field seasons in a remote arctic field camp on the Hudson Bay studying various aspects of the ecosystem. Every year Dave leaves at the end of May and returns to Utah towards the end of August. Weekly, brief satellite phone calls are our only means of communication. Meanwhile, while Dave is trying to keep from getting eaten by a polar bear and/or swarms of mosquito, I spend chunks of my summer doing field work in whatever national park or protected area I have a project. This year, starting around July 1, I will be alternating my time between home in Logan and Grand Teton National Park. I will be trying to not get eaten by a grizzly bear, gored by a moose, or driven insane by summer park visitors.
The lull between the end of the semester and the start of field work is usually taken up by days and days of field work preparations including ordering equipment, organizing gear, and testing equipment. Most of the time this work is boring and a bit of a hassle but this year Dave made testing some of his field equipment a bit more fun. Dave will be taking more than few high quality game cameras into the field this summer to examine predator/prey interactions. Having never used these cameras before, Dave brought a few home and decided a good way to familiarize himself with their use was to try them out on our cats!
Capturing Fern’s inner demon at the food bowls.
A couple of years ago, when looking through proceedings from past Monitoring and Management of Visitor Flows in Recreational and Protected Areas (MMV) conferences, I came across an article about recreation ecology in Canada. The title of the proceedings paper was slightly perplexing so I tucked the article away in a folder on my desktop to read at a later date. Today, I decided I was due for another installment of “Recreation Ecology Around the World” and pulled out the short proceedings paper from 2008; The future of recreation ecology in Canada: go big or go home? Since the paper is a few years old, I did a quick search to see if I could find any updates or new information but my search came up empty. So here is a short summary of the state of recreation ecology in Canada as described by Campbell and Walker from proceedings of the 4th MMV Conference (2008).
Macey hanging out on our Canada blanket.
Each year the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation team up to present “National Park Week”; a week-long celebration of America’s National Parks. This year, National Park Week will be April 20th to April 28th. The purpose of the event is to encourage everyone to learn about, support, and get out in our National Parks.
Part of National Park Week includes fee-free days. From Monday April 22nd until April 26th National Park units will waive their entrance fees, so this is your chance to visit a National Park for free! One of my favorite National Park programs, the Junior Ranger program,will also have its own day – April 20th. So if you have little ones, head to a National Park to participate in a variety of Junior Ranger oriented programs.
National Park Week is also about supporting the National Parks and supporting programs that get people into our parks. April 27th is Volunteer Day, so if you’d like to give back to the National Parks check out the calendar of events for National Park Week to see how you can help. The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s National Parks, also organizes many activities year-round including America’s Best Idea and Ticket to Ride. Both programs provide the means for underprivileged youth to access National Parks. So consider donating to the National Park Foundation to celebrate National Park Week.
I will be spending part of National Park Week in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. How will you be celebrating National Park Week?
Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (photo by Ashley D’Antonio)
It’s spring in Utah! I can still see snow in the mountains but my yard is looking lush and green. I am enjoying the rain while I can; I know that once summer rolls around these steady rain storms will be few. Despite my excitement about April showers and the warm weather, a recent article in Wildlife Biology has me thinking about winter. During the winter, many wildlife species are under extreme stress compared to other times of the year. Food is scare and therefore animals are at a risk of not replenishing any extra energy expenditure that may be undertaken. As such, winter recreation – while not having a huge impact on soil and vegetation – can be a serious threat to wildlife species. Some species are known to be especially sensitive to recreation, especially off-trail use by recreationists. Wildlife can adapt to the predictive nature of on-trail recreation but the sporadic and seemingly unpredictable nature of off-trail use can lead to serious ramifications for wildlife. Wildlife species often respond to recreationists like they do predators – flushing, releasing stress hormones, and overall just using energy that could have been saved for other activities (feeding, reproducing, growing, etc.).
Sign from Yellowstone National Park about winter, stress, and wildlife.
Coppes and Braunisch were interested in seeing if off-trail use by winter recreationists was predictable. Could they determine where human-wildlife conflicts might occur in a protected area in Germany using spatial modeling?
My research focuses on the ecological consequences of tourism and visitor use to parks and protected areas. The activities that I am interested in are all legal uses of parks and protected areas and the negative consequences of tourism that concern me are those that are the result of carelessness or ignorance. However, the integrity of parks and protected areas – both in the United States and abroad – are threatened by illegal actions as well. Poaching, logging, and illegal encroachment are of great concern for protected areas around the world. While researching issues of national security on federal lands, I came across an interesting opinion piece published this year (online only at the time of writing this post) in Trends in Ecology and Evolution by William Laurance; a professor out of Australia with a research focus on conservation biology. In the piece, Laurance speculates that the mere action of doing research in protected areas may have the added benefit of safeguarding the area.
Evidence of illegal logging activities in Mt. Cagua protected area