This is climate science. And it's awesome.
A citizen scientist field experience at North Cascades National Park looks something like this:
- Explore alpine meadows to see how plants adapt to climate change.
- Learn about the pika's tenuous status amid a dwindling food supply.
- Canoe to observe fish populations adapting to changing water temperatures, and then conduct snorkel surveys in a lake.
- Hike along a glacier to see the patterns of glacial advance and recession.
- Pepper an NPS geologist with questions about the role of glaciers in recording climate history.
- Check in with your teammates to figure out how it all works together—and what the changes so evident in the park's landscape mean for you.
The NPS Citizen Science Program at North Cascades National Park introduces students to the relationships between science, local ecosystems, and climate change. The Cascades Climate Challenge program brings youth from across the Pacific Northwest to the North Cascades, where they can witness firsthand the glaciers and their effects on surrounding ecosystems. After a three-week field experience, they are charged with taking the message back by way of a service project in their home communities, teaching others about climate change.
The program was born in 2009 from a partnership among the National Park Foundation, the North Cascades National Park Complex, and North Cascades Institute, a private nonprofit educational organization. Today the program is run by North Cascades Institute, fulfilling the goal of creating teen ambassadors who can relay the message of climate change in effective and credible terms, especially to younger audiences.
McGinty, M. 2011. Cascades Climate Challenge: Taking home the lessons of glaciers. Park Science 28(1):73–75.