National Park Units in the Movies

I have not posted in awhile because I was on personal travel to Canada to visit with my significant other and his family. Since returning to Logan I have been busy catching up on work and preparing for the Fall semester. However, this Friday evening I took a break from work and went out to see “Rise of Plant of the Apes.”

The movie stars James Franco as a scientist trying to find a cure for Alzheimers and Andy Serkis as Caeser an unnaturally smart chimpanzee from Franco’s lab.  Also playing a large role in the movie, which takes place in San Fransciso, is Muir Woods National Monument. Muir Woods becomes a playground for Caeser and the NPS unit also becomes a safe haven for the apes towards the end of the movie (trying to avoid spoilers here).  Once scene that occurred in Muir Woods irritated me slightly as it showed visitors doing something that I thought was forbidden in the park unit; walking their dog on the trail (yes, I imagine that walking a chimpanzee in the park is most likely also illegal – but I could overlook that while watching the movie).  Upon returning home from the theater, I went to the Muir Woods National Monument website and found out that, indeed, pets are not allowed on trails in Muir Woods. However, through my research I found something else much more interesting then park regulations – since the movie was released the unit has seen a record number of visitors.

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Field Notes: Trampling Studies (AKA Torturing plants on my summer vacation)

I have recently returned from a successful round of field work in Yosemite National Park. The main goal of my work this summer was to train a new graduate student in my lab on GPS-tracking methodologies and to help her set up a trampling study.  Trampling studies are the quintessential controlled experiment in Recreation Ecology.   The purpose of a trampling study is to mimic visitor impact (visitors hiking off-trail) to determine the resistance, resilience, and tolerance of particular vegetation types to being stomped on.  Resistance is a vegetation types ability to resist being altered by trampling. Resilient vegetation types are those that can bounce back  or recover more easily after trampling has stopped.  Resistance and resilience can be combined into a single indicator of vegetation vulnerability called tolerance. Basically, the results of a trampling study can tell park managers which types of vegetation and which plant communities may be more susceptible to damage from off-trail visitor use.

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