Research at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is not limited to paleontology. In fact, there are several ongoing park projects that aim to protect and maintain the natural, scenic, and cultural resources that are prevalent here at the National Monument.
Keeping Our Parks Green
One of the most notable projects that has taken place at the fossil beds is the creation of an "energy positive" Ranger Station. The outpost to the right is part of a National Park Service's Green Parks Plan, an effort to use sustainable materials and low emission operations, minimizing the carbon footprint. "The Green Parks Plan is based on nine strategic goals that focus the impact of facilities on the environment and human welfare." - National Park Service, Green Parks Plan.
Mercury Monitoring Program
The National Park Service selected John Day Fossil Beds to participate in a nationwide mercury level documentation program. Mercury is a toxic pollutant that is dangerous to both humans and wildlife, and it can be found in even the most remote parks as a result of atmospheric deposition. On June 21st, 2014, samples of water and dragonfly larvae were collected from the John Day River. Dragonflies spend most of their lives in the water, and because they are relatively high in the food chain, their larvae is a good indication of the amount of mercury in a body of water. Furthermore, understanding the levels of mercury in dragonfly larvae is important because dragonflies are a main food source for some fish. Fish are then consumed by birds and mammals (including humans), so high mercury levels in dragonfly larvae could suggest a greater threat to an ecosystem. No data has been published yet from the John Day data set.
Throughout the summer of 2014, the Natural Sound Division of the National Park Service monitored sound levels at each of the three units of the park. Their extremely sensitive devices recorded both natural noises (wildlife, wind, rain, etc.) and human caused sounds. Analyzing this data can help the park understand the impact that sound is making on the health of an ecosystem and on the visitor experience.
Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Program
From their website (http://www1.nrintra.nps.gov/im/units/ucbn/index.cfm):
“As part of the National Park Service’s effort to ‘improve park management through greater reliance on scientific knowledge,’ a primary role of the Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Division is to collect, organize, and make available natural resource data and to contribute to the Service’s institutional knowledge by facilitating the transformation of data into information through analysis, synthesis, and modeling.”
John Day Fossil Beds N.M. is located in the Upper Columbia Basin Network, who is monitoring sagebrush-steppe vegetation, water quality, riparian condition, and stream channel characteristics. Monitoring efforts are conducted on a three-year cycle; the vegetation is being monitored this summer (2014).
Did You Know?
Fossils from the Clarno Unit show that 44 million years ago, in what is now a near desert in Oregon, crocodiles and palm trees flourished.