NCR CESU Natural Resource Projects

Ever wondered about some of the natural resource projects happening in your park? Science and research in parks takes many forms and involves many collaborators both inside and outside the NPS. This is a summary of those ongoing projects in National Capital Region parks that are facilitated by the Chesapeake Watershed Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit (CW CESU). To learn more, contact CW CESU Research Coordinator Danny Filer at 301-689-7108.

A large American elm tree with the Washington Monument in the background.
A stately elm tree on the National Mall, with the Washington Monument in the background.


Project: Condition Assessment of and Development of Best Management Practices for The National Mall’s Elm Tree Panels (Dr. Nina Bassuk, Cornell University)
Goal: Examine soil and elm trees in National Mall panels. Describe current growing conditions and tree health, look at historical data, identify growing environment challenges, recommend best practices to fix growing deficiencies, and define management objectives to ensure future tree health.
Parks: National Mall and Memorial Parks

Project: Survey of Fauna of seepage springs in NACE (Dr. David Culver, American University)
Goal: To expand baseline knowledge of seepage springs and their subterranean fauna including flatworms, amphipods, snails, and isopods in an area (the Potomac Basin) known to be a hotspot of this type of diversity.
Parks: National Capital Parks - East

White splatters on low green leaves
In dense forest, it can be hard to see high up eagle nests, but "white wash" below is a tell tale sign that a nest is above.


Project: Assessment of Contaminant Exposure for Bald Eagles Nesting in selected Northeast and NCR Parks (Dr. Bryan D. Watts, College of William and Mary)
Goal: To assess exposure of nestling eagles reared within NPS properties in the lower Chesapeake Bay to contaminants (heavy metals, legacy classes of organochlorine compounds, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, etc.) and to compare reproductive rates of pairs within parks to the broader populations in the James, York, and Potomac River systems.
Parks: Piscataway Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway

Project: Conduct Geospatial Analyses to assess habitat connectivity throughout the length of the CHOH (Dr. Andrew Elmore, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science - Appalachian Lab)
Goal: Assess the potential of the C&O Canal as a habitat corridor for plants and wildlife on a landscape-level.
Parks: Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Project: Conduct Intensive Bat Population Surveys to Assess the Impacts of White Nose Syndrome in Parks of the National Capital Region (Dr. Mark Ford, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)
Goal: Conduct a bat acoustic survey of parks in the Capital Region to determine current post-White- nose Syndrome presence/absence and relative activity abundance of bats.
Parks: All NCR parks, including the National Mall and Memorial Parks

Project: Post White-nose Syndrome Bat Community Survey and Maternity Roost Tree Utilization by Northern Long-eared Bats (Dr. Mark Ford, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

Goal: Document and delineate northern long-eared bat maternity activity using intensive mist-netting at Rock Creek Park and Prince William Forest Park. Begin investigations of possible overwinter.

Parks: Rock Creek Park, Prince William Forest Park

A woman with binoculars and clip board looks into the distance
Grassland bird monitoring at Antietam National Battlefield


Project: Implementing the Avian Monitoring Protocol for the National Park Service Units of the National Capital Region Network (Dr. Greg Shriver, University of Delaware)

Goal: Implement bird monitoring protocol, develop analyses based on forest and grassland breeding bird guilds.

Parks: All NCR parks except National Mall and Memorial Parks

Project: Dendroecological analysis of dominant tree species at NCRN forest monitoring plots: wood production and canopy responses to climate variability (Dr. Andrew Elmore, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science - Appalachian Lab)

Goal: Estimate stand age at all National Capital Region Network long-term forest monitoring plots and generate a record of the historical pattern of tree growth as recorded by tree rings.

Parks: All NCR parks except National Mall and Memorial Parks

People gather around a tarp where soil is carefully spread out for examination.
A soil core is examined in the field.


Project: Forest Soil Quality in the National Capital Region Network: Developing a QA/QC Process and Analyzing Data (Dr. Ray Weil, University of Maryland)

Goal: Analyzing soil data for physical and chemical parameters so it can be used in conjunction with vegetation data to understand relationships between these two key elements of forest ecology.

Parks: All NCR parks except National Mall and Memorial Parks

Project: Phase 3: Second Century Regional Resource Stewardship Assessment (Dr. Simon Costanzo, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Integration and Application Network)

Goal: This project will create a preliminary Regional Resource Condition Assessment using Natural Resource Condition Assessment (NRCA) data and cultural resources baseline documentation needs assessments. This will populate a regional database to serve the parks in the next phase of NRCAs and Resource Stewardship Strategies.

Parks: All NCR parks except National Mall and Memorial Parks

Internship Project: Climate Change Communication Internship Program (Dr. Ed Maibach, George Mason University)

Goal: Developing scientifically accurate educational messages and innovative communications products related to environmental change for NCR parks through close collaboration with park staff.

Parks: Open to all NCR parks. Parks served include: Catoctin Mountain Park, C&O Canal National Historical Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Monocacy National Battlefield, National Capital Parks - East, Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Fort Washington Park, National Mall & Memorial Parks, Prince William Forest Park, Rock Creek Park, and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

Internship Project: Connect Parks, People, and Science (Dr. Katerina V. Thompson, University of Maryland College Park)

Goal: For students of diverse academic and cultural backgrounds to acquire practical experience and build relationships with professionals and organizations in the natural resources and science field. Interns will support NCR parks through projects that increase understanding of natural resources.

Parks: Open to all NCR Parks

logo of the Chesapeake Watershed Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit

The CW CESU promotes stewardship and integrated ecosystem management of natural and cultural resources in the Chesapeake Watershed through collaborative research, technical assistance, and education. To learn more about the CW CESU, please contact Danny Filer at 301-689-7108 or browse the CW CESU Newsletter.

Last updated: February 23, 2018