Digital Connections to Natural Resources

A youth ambassador takes a photo with her smartphone for BioBlitz 2016 in Washington, DC.
A youth ambassador takes a photo with her smartphone for BioBlitz 2016 in Washington, DC.

NPS Photo/Sparhawk

The term natural resources may not make you immediately think of software, social media, or databases. But digital tools are real game-changers in the field of natural resource stewardship and science. We use cutting-edge data collection tools everyday in parks to protect and conserve the water, air, rocks, and life within them. And we also use digital media to make connections and share important (and interesting!) natural resource information with you and every other visitor to national park websites or social media accounts.

  1. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram! Engaging with us on social media can open a world of nature to you. Do you ever want breaking science news on your phone to change the pace, or a photo of nature to get you through another afternoon indoors, or a fun science fact for happy hour? We got you covered. We also share videos and stories about the people who work hard to protect parks. And, you’ll never forget to celebrate Cephalopod Week again!
  2. NPSpecies - This database keeps an inventory of every species in every park. Of course it relies on updates from park staff to be accurate, but the data in this database provides a list of all living things within a park. It’s open to the public, and it’s fun to explore. (Did you know there are 21 species of reptiles in Mesa Verde National Park?) With this information, park staff and scientists can develop strategies to increase biodiversity, to protect endangered species, and to manage invasive species, for example. All of these activities improve the health of ecosystems and our world.
  3. Air Quality Web Cameras - Current digital images and air quality information from 19 national parks are part of the NPS air quality web camera network. Images are updated every 15 minutes. Air quality data—including ozone, particulate matter, visual range, & weather conditions—are updated hourly. The data collected shows long-term trends in air quality and provides critical information to Congress, air quality monitoring agencies, and other scientists in universities. Air quality affects everyone, and digital tools help us keep it clean for good health and scenic views.
  4. Virtual Visitors - Digital media allow people to travel virtually to many of our national parks. Whether it's a distance learning adventure from Grand Canyon National Park or watching the Denali puppies in the spring, summer, and fall, people have the opportunity to connect with faraway places from the comfort of their living rooms.
  5. LIDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging, and scientists use this technology to make 3D maps of underground surfaces, like lava tubes. Then they can use this information to help scientists understand what the terrain of other planets in our solar system are like. Learn more in this video (that you can watch digitally!) from our friends at Outside Science (inside parks). They went to Craters of the Moon to see LIDAR in action!

This is just the tip of the iceberg of how we use digital tools, concepts, and media to both protect resources in parks and also share them with the rest of the world. Connect with us!

-NRSS Digital Team