Desperate for Climbers in Joshua Tree NP

I just returned from another week of surveying visitors in Joshua Tree National Park. This project has taught me an important lesson – visit your trailheads before attempting to survey there! Unfortunately, I had never been to Joshua Tree National Park before the proposal for the grant was due and therefore I had to do my survey sampling design “blind”. I had no idea how many people visited the trailheads that I wanted to sample or how popular the trailheads were for climbers. All I had to go on when designing the study was a general ranking of the most popular places in the park.

Surveying ended a day early after a cold front and storm rolled into town.

I quickly learned that I grossly over estimated the number of climbing groups that would be at the trailheads and did not realize that many climbing groups would stay out until dusk or dark.  I spent the entire past week trying to do whatever I could to get climbing groups to take my survey. Although I fell a bit short of my target number of surveys for climbers – by the end of the week, I would get a little rush of adrenaline at the sound of climbing gear clinking down the trail – I still had a wonderful Spring Break in the desert with some great company. Thanks to my lovely friends who traveled 12 hours each way to help me pester visitors to fill out a 7 page survey.

Here are some pictures from round two of field work:

Climbers taking my survey (yay!)

Lost Horse Gold Mine

Eric and Dave at Gunsmoke (a JTree classic bouldering problem)

Cactus flowers blooming early

Venus and Jupiter were the first to appear in the night sky

What’s next?  Well I will enter all of the data, analyze the data this summer, and write a report for the National Park Service. I will also design a webpage of my findings to provide to Joshua Tree National Park and return to the park around this time next year for a public presentation about my research. Overall, it feels good to have data collection completed for one chapter of my dissertation even if it did not go as smoothly as planned.


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