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.
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:
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.