September is National Wilderness Month

September 3rd, 2014 was the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964. In recognition of this anniversary, President Obama has declared September 2014 as “National Wilderness Month”. In the official Presidential Proclamation, President Obama “invite[s] all Americans to visit and enjoy our wilderness areas, to learn about their vast history, and to aid in the protection of our precious national treasures.”  As part of my personal celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the following post will be all about designated wilderness in the US.

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Drones in National Parks: NPS uses the Precautionary Principle

On Friday, Jon Jarvis the Director of the National Park Service signed a policy memorandum that prohibits the “launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service.”  The common term for such an unmanned aircraft is “drone”.   As the cost of drones has decreased, their popularity outside of the commercial sector has increased and drones had become a more common sight in National Parks recently. You can buy a drone on Amazon for a mere $300 that is already outfitted with 720p HD video that can be live streamed to your tablet or smartphone. Heck, if you’re a student at the University of South Florida you can even check a drone out of the library!  To see one way that drones were being used in National Parks check out the video below taken by a visitor with a drone at Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park.

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National Park Week 2014 is almost here!

Each April, by presidential proclamation, there is a week dedicated to celebrating the 401 units of the National Park system.  This years National Park Week will be from April 19th through the 27th; with the weekend of April 19th and 20th being a fee free weekend! The National Park Service teams up with the National Parks Foundation to present National Park Week and this year their theme is “National Parks: Go Wild!”.  You see watch the promotional video below that was built on that theme (the music is a little strange…).

There are various events planned at each individual unit of the National Park system  to celebrate National Park Week. To find out what is happening at a park near you, go the events calendar and search for nearby parks.  But some of the days of the week are themed.  For example, April 26th is National Junior Rangers day! National Park Week is also coinciding with Earth Day this year. Earth Day is April 22nd and parks are encouraging people to volunteer their time at a National Park that day. You can find volunteer opportunities here.

Overall, the point of the week is just to go out and celebrate our nation’s natural areas, cultural history, and heritage. Last year I spent some of National Park Week 2013 in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. This year, I will have to stay closer to home, maybe a day trip to Golden Spike National Historic Site?

What are you doing to celebrate National Park Week?

The Latest in Public Lands News: Wilderness, National Monuments, and H.R. 1459

March has been a busy month as far as public lands are concerned and not all of the news has been good. A few major events have happened (or will be happening in a couple of days) related to US public lands this month and in this post I plan to touch briefly on all of them. The take-home message is this: the current Congress is not doing enough to ensure the long-term protection of wildlands in the United States and instead is attempting to make it harder for the President to circumvent Congress to protect natural areas.

Spoiler Alert!


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Using Film (and Music!) to Bring People to Our National Parks

Earlier this week a friend of mine posted the music video below to Facebook.  Given that I am currently doing some winter data collection in Grand Teton National Park, I immediately fell in love with the song (please ignore the fact that there are no shots of the Tetons in the actual video…). While the song itself is pretty awesome, the reason it was written is even more exciting.

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Social Media and Recreation Research Have you ever posted photos from a vacation to Flickr? Did you happen to geotag your photos? If so, then your vacation photos may have been part of a study that was recently published in Scientific Reports (an open access journal from the publishers of Nature). Recreation researchers have begun to explore the use of social media as a way to remotely gather information about recreation users.  Wood et al. data mined Flickr’s collection of geotagged photos to see if they could use social media resources to quantify use levels for nature-based tourism and recreation destinations across the world.


Where in the world is Ashley D’Antonio? (I don’t think I have ever geotagged a photo…)

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Science Communication and National Geographic

Sadly, it was not my research that was featured by National Geographic. As Dave recently found out, one of the benefits – or possibly curses depending on your perspective – of studying charismatic megafauna (particularly a species that is threatened by climate change) is that people actually pay attention to your research. A couple of weeks ago, while I was all excited about my lab’s work being published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environmental, Dave had to “one-up” me.

Dave’s Nightmare (from PhD Comics)

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