Continental Divide Research Learning Center
Research and management studies have been conducted at Rocky Mountain National Park for decades, and they are essential tools for today's park managers. Through inventory and monitoring of our park resources, scientists create baselines by which to judge changes to ecosystems over time.
The Continental Divide Research Learning Center staff facilitates research in Rocky Mountain National Park. The park research administrator issues permits to scientists who inventory, monitor, and study park resources such as elk, butterflies, air quality, glaciers, and people. Other staff translate the results of research for the park managers and public and assist with field logistics.
The research administrator identifies needed research, solicits proposals, reviews submissions for scientific quality, negotiates with researchers to meet park needs, develops task agreements, and monitors subsequent work. In some cases, the park can fund research.
Whether or not a project receives park funding, all research conducted in the park must have a research permit. Each proposed project is scrutinized to ensure it does not adversely affect park resources or visitors and will contribute in some way to an understanding of the park. The review process allows the park to shape projects, even those receiving no government funding, in ways that will maximize value for the park. Inappropriate projects, or those lacking scientific validity, are rejected, in order to protect the integrity of park resources.
Research Application to Management
Projects must inform park management decisions. For instance, knowing the location and identification of rare and fragile tundra plants helps park managers protect them from visitors' hiking boots. Testing for chronic wasting disease helps park mangers preserve the deer population in the park. Limited park research funding is allocated on the basis of the importance of projects to management decision-making.
Did You Know?
The oldest rocks in the park are metamorphic (biotite schist and gneiss) estimated at 1.7 billion years old, making them some of the oldest rocks within the National Park System.