Water, plant communities, wildlife populations, disturbance, and pollution—these are some of the park "vital signs" chosen by park and partner scientists for us to monitor. They are critical elements and processes that represent the overall health or condition of the parks' natural resources, but they are a subset of the total suite of things park managers are charged with preserving "unimpaired for future generations."
By itself, long-term monitoring is not intended to be research. It does not answer a pre-determined question and it does not have an end-date. Long-term monitoring is a regular, ongoing check of abundance, diversity, and appropriate functioning. However, the information we gather can lead to specific questions that require more in-depth research.
The Great Lakes Network Monitoring Plan provides a detailed description of the strategy for monitoring these vital signs. The currently monitored vital signs are listed below.