Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

A group sits in a meadow writing in notebooks.

A typical day during training. NPS / M. Fisher-Dunham

Park Hosts Botany Training – Increasing Skills, Efficiency and Partnerships

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana

Those who love botany experience both the joy and frustration when identifying minute and immature plants to species. It’s a challenging puzzle to organize all the visual clues and mentally run them through your mind’s “plant database.” Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (INDU) is one of our most botanically diverse national parks, ranking seventh in native plant species richness with about 1,100 native plants. The Lakeshore contains 30% of Indiana‚??s listed rare, threatened, endangered, and special concern plant species. This diversity makes plant identification a very time consuming process for the fire effects monitors.

How does one quickly train new seasonal employees with the knowledge needed to ‘hit the plots running’ and complete a heavy sampling schedule with the utmost accuracy and efficiency? The INDU Fire Effects Program has found a way to reduce the learning curve by initiating a specialized botany training. The uniqueness of this training is its focus on identification through vegetative rather than floristic features. The instructors are field botanists who have spent countless hours developing sets of detailed vegetative attributes by which species can be identified. These key features result in identification without use of the flower characteristics required by most dichotomous keys. During the training, participants create a field notebook ‚??herbarium‚?? with pressed plant specimens and a list of key identifying features. Crew members continue to develop their field herbaria, adding new species encountered throughout the season. The field book becomes a cherished and valuable tool and reference.

Students in a classroom setting

Only ¬Ĺ day inside the first day. NPS / M. Fisher-Dunham

The informative and relaxed approach of the instructors has made this a coveted training. Because we believe that the park will benefit from the increased taxonomical skills and positive relationships of a joint training, staff from other programs are invited. Typically, employees from fire effects, fire suppression and resource management attend. While professional week long botany training is certainly considered a perk and morale booster by the participants, the benefits to the park are equally seen. The increase in ease, efficiency and accuracy of the Fire Effects data collection is evident. Participants of the training more quickly and correctly identify the majority of plant species, allowing the crews complete field work in an efficient and accurate manner.

Contact: Mary Fisher-Dunham, INDU Lead Fire Effects Monitor

Email: mary_fisher-dunham@nps.gov

Phone: (219)395-8414