Scientific Research Permits

A man standing on white salt bends over a pool of water looking at something in his hand.
National Parks are considered living laboratories where scientists ask questions and conduct research. The National Park Service preserves the places and stories of discovery and uses what we learn through science to manage our natural and cultural resources.



Death Valley National Park is committed to the furtherance of science and expanding knowledge of the park’s resources. Annually, Death Valley National Park receives numerous requests to conduct scientific research within the park. Research activities may be performed by park contractors, cooperating agencies, non-profit or other governmental agencies, academic institutions, or individuals or other researchers who have a demonstrated record of accomplishments in the proposed field of investigation.


Guidelines for Conducting Research: Permit Application Through the Research Permit and Reporting System (RPRS)

Before conducting any form of scientific research or specimen collection within the park, researchers must obtain advance approval in the form of a permit. Permits can be applied for via the online portal of the National Park Service Research Permit and Reporting System (RPRS). All permit applications must include:

Two researchers record data at night using headlamps.
Biologists researching bats at Death Valley National Park.

© Joey Danielson

  • A study proposal that follows this template.
  • GPS-d: point-coordinates, maps, and .shp/.kmz files denoting exact study sites for proposed collecting or ground disturbance (researcher reconnaissance may be required).
  • Additional study-specific requirements, as applicable. Does your proposed research involve vertebrate animals, threatened, endangered or candidate species, research in wilderness, or specimen collection? If so, include the additional requirements outlined below.

Studies in which researchers will be handling or otherwise potentially impacting vertebrate animals must first submit their study for approval to the National Park Service’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) - Biological Resources Division. Approval letters and/or concurrence documentation from the NPS IACUC must be attached to the research permit application upon submission.

Applications involving organisms (plant or animal) protected within these categories must be accompanied by current copies of all applicable state (California and/or Nevada, as relevant) and federal (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) permits. Some species that are state listed may not be federally listed, and vice versa. All species, proposed methods, and study areas must be specific to activities proposed for Death Valley National Park (Inyo / San Bernardino / Nye County) and clearly defined within the permits.

Wilderness lands comprise over 93 percent of Death Valley National Park. These special areas have been preserved under the Wilderness Act of 1964 and are perhaps “the most protected public lands in America”. Research activities proposed in wilderness undergo extensive review by park officials, compliance specialists, and subject matter experts. Applicants proposing activities in wilderness must complete and attach a Minimum Requirements Analysis and Decision Guide to their application. Please use the map feature on the Wilderness Connect homepage to determine if your proposed project will occur in a wilderness area.

Prior approval from the park is required for collection of any and all materials, whether plant, animal, rock, or soil. Specimens shall be cataloged following park guidelines as outlined in the permit conditions and by park curatorial staff listed on the permit. Collecting is never allowed from or near archaeological sites. The collection of specimens, whether retained or not, must be indicated with a “YES” answer in the Collection and Handling section of the application form. Any and all collections not degraded by scientific analysis shall remain property of the federal government. If retention is indicated, the system will prompt the Primary Investigator to complete an Appendix A Repository Agreement form. This must be submitted electronically with the application. A signed copy must also be provided to the Research Permit Coordinator. View this file for further instructions on this process.


Important Considerations:

  • Permit requests that involve ground disturbance, marking, collaring, or tagging of plants or animals, or collection of parts of organisms or entire organisms are currently taking a year or more for review.
  • Death Valley National Park is the homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone and other tribes. Some research proposals may involve tribal consultation between the park and tribes. This can increase permit processing time as we review concerns with sensitive issues and areas.
  • Ground disturbing activities have the potential to impact archaeological resources both on and below the ground surface. Such activities require additional review under section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Due to extended review time, researchers are encouraged to substitute non-ground disturbing methods whenever possible.
  • With limited exceptions, permit requests for sampling or removal of rocks and minerals are not currently being accepted.

  • Modifications to existing applications or permits, such as the addition of study locations, may require re-submission of the original application and result in added review time.
  • The park cannot expedite application review. Postpone travel plans until after a final permit has been issued.

Last updated: December 27, 2023

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328


760 786-3200

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