Plant Invaders-Citizen Science Field Trip

Student and staff member hold a grid plot while other high schoolers observe and/or record data
Measuring weed coverage in Fish Creek Campground

NPS/Jacob W. Frank

Students will become "Citizen Scientists" and hike less than 2 miles to permanently established research plots to collect data on the percent cover of native and non-native, invasive plants. Students will return to school and add their data to the information from previous visits of other schools. They will analyze and look for patterns as the database builds each year.

Glacier is at the core of the "Crown of the Continent" ecosystem, one of the most ecologically intact areas remaining in the temperate regions of the world. The establishment of Glacier National Park, along with its geographic location, has enabled its ecological processes and biological diversity to survive relatively intact in a rapidly changing and encroaching world. Glacier is one of the few places in the contiguous 48 states that continue to support natural populations of all indigenous carnivores and most of their prey. Glacier provides an outstanding opportunity for ecological management and research in one of the largest areas where natural processes predominate. As a result, the park has been designated a Biosphere Reserve, and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park has been designated as a World Heritage site.

Grades: 6–12
Location: Meet in Apgar
Duration: 4 hours, view our Plant Invaders Field Trip Schedule to see a basic outline for the day
Group Size: 45-60 total, 2 groups of 20 -30 students
Skills: Observe, communicate, identify, classify, record
Vocabulary: Citizen science, noxious weeds
Essential Questions:

  • How is Glacier National Park the same or different from other areas with invasive plants?
  • What are the different ways that introduced species affect our environment?
  • Should we manage our landscape to remove invasive species?
  • How can the park engage citizens to assist with preserving native plant habitat?

National and State Standards:
Montana State Standards

  • MT.SCI.K-12.1 Students, through the inquiry process, demonstrate the ability to design, conduct, evaluate, and communicate results and reasonable conclusions of scientific investigations.
    • A proficient student will be able to identify a question, determine relevant variables and a control, formulate a testable hypothesis, plan and predict the outcome of an investigation, safely conduct scientific investigation, and compare and analyze data.
  • MT.SCI.K-12.3.2 Students, through the inquiry process, demonstrate knowledge of characteristics, structures and function of living things, the process and diversity of life, and how living organisms interact with each other and their environment.
    • A proficient student will be able to explain how organisms and systems of organisms obtain and use energy resources to maintain stable conditions (e.g., food webs, photosynthesis, respiration).

Next Generation Science Standards
MS-LS1-6 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.



Students will be able to:

  • Tell what national parks protect and one reason Glacier National Park was established.
  • Explain why Glacier National Park is concerned about the spread of nonnative, invasive plants and the loss of native plant communities.
  • List 3 native plants and their uses by wildlife and people (including traditional uses by the Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai, or Pend d’Oreille)
  • Use a field guide to identify four different species of non-native, invasive plants classified by the state as “noxious weeds”.
  • Work cooperatively with classmates to locate and record data on the occurrences of the four targeted non-native, invasive plants along the assigned trail.
  • Use a GPS to locate permanent vegetation transects to record data on non-native, invasive plants.
  • Use a topographic map to correlate historic information about infestations and past treatments of non-native, invasive plants along the trail.
  • Accurately complete a data sheet for recording observations of percent cover of non-native, invasive plants following the established protocols.
  • Define “Citizen Science” and give 1 reason national parks are training people to collect data in parks and 1 reason why many scientists don’t think this is “real” science.
  • Explain why Glacier does not ask all visitors to pull non-native, invasive plants whenever they see them.
  • Input data into an Excel spreadsheet and analyze it to formulate a plan for management.
  • Recognize patterns from the data collected on the trail and infer why non-native, invasive plants may be found more commonly in some areas of the park than other.
  • Identify non-native, invasive plants in the local community and research local and state regulations about what is being done, and what more could be done, to control their spread.

Field Trip Logistics

Teachers wishing to have thier students participate in the "Plant Invaders" field trip should plan to arrive at Apgar by 10:00 am. and stay until 1:30 pm. Everyone in the group must be prepared to be outside for the entire program and be able to hike up to 4 miles over varied terrain.


Reserve Your Trip

Visit the Scheduling & Guidelines page to find the reservation form as well as tips for a successful day in the park.

If you have questions, email or call the Education Specialist at 406-888-5837.


Preparing for Your Trip

Students that spend time preparing for their visit get more out of a field trip to the park. Activities post-visit also help to reinforce information learned during the trip.

MUST READ! To help your students start learning about weeds, see the lesson "A Weed by Any Other Name" from the kNOweeds Curriculum, Missoula County Extension. The supplemental materials include a power point presentation.

To make sure they understand the data they'll be collecting on their Glacier field trip, set aside time before the trip to view our Plant Invaders Field Trip Preparation Slide Show (6MB pdf). See the accompanying teacher slide notes (400KB pdf).

Suggested activities and supplementary materials:

Last updated: November 10, 2017

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936



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