It’s the time of the year for natural resources graduate students where everyone is scattered across the globe collecting data and conducting field work. For my labmates and me, this means heading to national parks and other protected areas during the throes of tourist season. I recently returned from a trip to Yosemite and tomorrow I pack up my car with field gear and head to Colorado for the next few weeks of research. My roommate just returned from one national park in Alaska and is home for a brief time before heading back to conduct research in two other Alaskan national parks. My labmates and I are not the only ones spending our summer in a national parks. My significant other, Dave, who studies wildlife science and population modeling, is also spending his summer in a national park. However, while most people have heard of the places where I spend my summers, very few people have heard of Wapusk National Park in Manitoba.
Much of the work that I do is concerned about the impacts of off-trail hiking. Specifically, I am most interested in impacts to vegetation and soil. However, when visitors leave the designated trail they have the potential to impact more than just plants; especially if they end up wandering into sensitive habitat. Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California contains some areas that may be especially sensitive to recreation disturbance – the Tomales Point Elk Reserve. The Tomales Point Elk Reserve is home, year-round, to about 500 tule elk. The same area also receives approximately 350,000 visitors per year – many of which will wander from the designated trail and into the elk reserve. Becker and colleagues were interested in finding out how tule elk might respond to the presence of off-trail hikers on the elk reserve.
Another brief post, but this link was too awesome to not share. Although this Wired Science post is almost a year old, I just stumbled upon it today. The post features views of some of the most popular and well-known parks as seen from space. Only one of my field sites (Yosemite) is featured, but all of the photos are absolutely stunning. Enjoy!
I have just returned from visiting my family back East so posts have been few and far between. Expect more frequent postings to occur now that summer is here and I have a little bit more free time on my hand.
Until then….here is a reminder that today is National Get Outdoors Day! The purpose of National Get Outdoors Day is to encourage Americans to get outside and have some healthy, active fun. Additionally, the day is used to convince people to visit our public lands and attempts to create activities that help children reconnect with nature. As such, public land agencies ( USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, BLM, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service) are waiving entrance fees to encourage more first-time visitors to parks and protected areas. So get outside today and enjoy some natural beauty and even better if you can do it on public land! I’ve already spend part of my day wandering around a local municipal park visiting the farmer’s market and plan on taking a short trail run in the nearby national forest. Here are some ideas for how you can celebrate National Get Outdoors Day.