By Christine Gianas Weinheimer EBS Contributor
Have you ever wanted to conduct field research in the great outdoors? Growing opportunities in citizen science provide an exciting way to assist Yellowstone National Park by helping researchers collect data that aids park managers in planning their conservation efforts. Here’s your chance to think like a scientist about the future of Yellowstone’s plants and animals, while giving something back to the park.
The Yellowstone Citizen Science Initiative is a collaboration between Yellowstone National Park and its official nonprofit partner, Yellowstone Forever. The program encourages visitors to collect essential data that will help park scientists and management officials better understand how the Yellowstone ecosystem is responding to changing environmental conditions.
The projects that citizen scientists work on are all priorities of Yellowstone National Park, so the work they do directly contributes to the science-driven management of the park.
“By leveraging our unique partnership with the park, we are able to provide unique experiences for park visitors, reach our educational objectives, and contribute usable data. It’s a win, win, win,” said Joshua Theurer, citizen science program manager at Yellowstone Forever.
Some active citizen science projects include the Yellowstone Phenology Project—the study of plant and animal life-cycle changes over time—plus red-tailed hawk nest monitoring, invasive weeds mapping and northern range ungulate research. During the summer season, volunteers commit to several days in a row, or a series of weekends, to participate in one of the studies.
Yellowstone Forever is currently working to create even more opportunities for participants to become involved by folding the research projects into existing educational programs.
“We are building out our youth programs to incorporate these projects as a core component of those experiences,” said Theurer. “There is profound value in allowing students to contribute to real research.”
Starting this summer, the Yellowstone Forever Institute will also add four new citizen science programs to its popular Field Seminar series. Participants will contribute to a citizen science project while learning new skills, engaging with Yellowstone on a deeper level, and enjoying spending time in the park.
Learn more about the Yellowstone Citizen Science Initiative and related Field Seminars at yellowstone.org/citizen-science.
Christine Gianas Weinheimer lives in Bozeman, Montana, and has been writing about Yellowstone for 17 years.