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Science in the Parks

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The National Park Service is charged with preserving, conserving, and managing natural resources in all of the national parks. This mission is pursued according to National Park Service policy and the Natural Resource Challenge Plan, mandated by Congress, utilizing science-based standards for assessing natural resources and for making decisions about how to preserve or restore those resources. 

Here we report on natural and social science studies undertaken in the 75 national parks and related areas within the 13 northeastern states. NPS Northeast Region Chief Scientist Mary Foley ( oversees the region's science program.

For the purposes of the Service’s Inventory and Monitoring Program (I&M), 38 natural-area parks in the Northeast are grouped into four networks that share similar geographic and natural resource characteristics and thus benefit by collaborating and sharing information and expertise. This program’s goals are to inventory a vast range of park features, including the presence and distribution of plants, animals, and nonliving resources such as water, landforms, and climate, and then monitor the health of park ecosystems by observing “vital signs,” selected physical, chemical, and biological elements and processes of park ecosystems that represent the overall health or condition of the park. The networks in the Northeast Region are the Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network, the Mid-Atlantic Network, the Eastern Rivers and Mountains Network, and the Northeast Temperate Network. Many of the reports found at this web site are the result of projects undertaken for the Inventory and Monitoring Program. NPS Northeast Region I&M Program Manager John Karish ( oversees the region's I&M program.

The Region’s science program also benefits from research conducted by three Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU). CESUs are a collaborative arrangement of university/research institutions and federal agencies established to provide research, technical assistance, and education to federal land management, environmental, and research agencies. The North Atlantic Coast CESU focuses on coastal zone issues from Maine to Virginia, the Chesapeake Watershed CESU places emphasis on the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay, and the biogeographic region of the Great Lakes-Northern Forest CESU includes the Northeast’s temperate deciduous forests.

Natural Resource Stewardship and Science staff are stationed throughout the Northeast Region. Staff includes specialists in such areas as threatened and endangered species, integrated pest management, water and air resources, and inventory and monitoring. These experts assist park natural resource managers and partners in several ways by

  • identifying and prioritizing regional and individual park needs
  • helping parks determine the status and trends of selected indicators of the condition of park ecosystems
  • providing guidance in all aspects of natural and social science research programs
  • identifying qualified researchers
  • administering and overseeing research contracts and agreements, and
  • ensuring the proper conduct of studies and the peer review of research documents.

This web site announces newly funded projects, presents annual reports on project progress, and makes final research reports accessible in pdf format. This archive began in 2000. Information and reports of additional research activities may be found at the individual Inventory and Monitoring network and CESU web sites.

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