Linking Research and Education

Great Lakes Research and Education Center (GLREC) staff work with educators, partners, and interpretive staff at 10 parks in the National Park Service's Great Lakes Network to bring new research findings to the public. By sharing information through workshops, staff training, research conferences, and bulletins, the GLREC fosters a greater understanding of our natural and cultural resources leading to sound environmental stewardship.

Researcher seining for fish in Lake Michigan
Scientist seines offshore in Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

How Do I Learn About Research in National Parks?

All scientists working in national parks are required to submit annual reports on their work. These reports, called "Investigator's Annual Reports", contain short descriptions of the research done in a given year and are online and available to the public.

The Investigator's Annual Report (IAR) is used by the National Park Service to document and track research accomplishments pertaining to natural and cultural resources and social science studies. Annual reports are based on calendar year activities and normally include basic information about research projects including the study title, objectives, and findings.

To view these Investigator's Annual Reports (IARs), visit the Research Permit and Reporting System website. Click "search" in the web page's green band, and select "Investigator's Annual Reports". Then the enter the national park name and reporting year that interest you.

To view a specific report in the list, click on the report title. In some cases, printable PDFs of the report are available.

Upcoming Events and Activities

Volunteers and Citizen Scientists Are Needed!

Citizen science is defined as scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions. The work accomplished by citizen scientists enables researchers to accomplish tasks that would be too expensive or time consuming to accomplish through other means.Participation in citizen science is a rewarding way to contribute. While adding value, volunteers acquire new learning and skills, and deeper understanding of the scientific work in a fun and engaging way.

The Great Lakes Research and Education Center encourages public participation in citizen science projects dealing with:

Citizen scientists collect samples from interdunal wetland.
Citizen scientists collect samples for dragonfly mercury anaylsis.

If you are interested in participating in citizen science projects within the Great Lakes Research and Education Center network, contact our education coordinator!

Recent Events

A researcher explains his bat research while mist nets billow in the wind.
Kyle George, a graduate student from Eastern Michigan University, explains his efforts to understand the summer roosting ecology of Northern Long-eared Bats.

Integrating Research, Interpretation, and Education at Sleeping Bear Dunes

In June of 2016, Interpreters at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore spent the day learning about research going on in their park. Eight researchers shared their projects with Interpreters and partners, and everyone worked together to brainstorm ways to integrate information about this research into the park's interpretive and educational programming. Featured research projects included:

  • The Role of White-tailed Deer in Species Invasions: The Good, the Bad, and the Ungulate- Susan Kalisz, PhD, University of Pittsburg
  • Climate Change Adaptation Planning For Western Great Lakes Parks - Lee Frelich, PhD, University of Minnesota
  • Tourism and Climate Change: Will National Park Visitation Warm Up or Overheat? -Nicholas Fisichelli, PhD, NPS Climate Change Response Program
  • Climate Change and Species Rang Shifts: The Karner Blue Butterfly Example –Gregor Schuurman, PhD, NPS Climate Change Response Program
  • Crystal Clear or Clear as Mud? Long Term Water Quality Monitoring at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore's Inland Lakes - David VanderMeulen, NPS Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Network
  • Investigating the Importance of Deer and Alternative Hosts for Lyme Disease Ecology: A Natural Experiment Presented by Lake Michigan Islands –Jennifer Sidge, DVM
  • Studying the Summer Roosting Ecology of Northern Long-eared Bats –Kyle George, Graduate Student, Eastern Michigan University
  • Plant Diversity and Ecosystem Functions: Using Ecological Theory to Refine Sand Dune Restoration –Kerri Crawford, PhD, University of Houston
Researcher carries equipment into cattail marsh.

Indiana Dunes, Science, and YOU!

The Third Annual "Indiana Dunes, Science, and YOU!" events were held in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in May of 2015. Students (on Friday) and members of the general public (on Saturday) got a glimpse into the scientific investigations going on in their park. More

Resources for Teachers

Great Lakes Observing System buoy

Great Lakes Observing System, photo provided

Teaching with Great Lakes Data

The "Teaching with Great Lakes Data" workshop was cosponsored by Michigan Sea Grant and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore with support from NOAA. This workshop showed educators how they could teach about climate & weather, storm surges, dead zones, and fish habitat in the Great Lakes and how to use real-time and historical data to teach about these topics. Much data is from "The Great Lakes Observing System" and features near real-time data and archived observations from buoys positioned across the Great Lakes. Data includes lake conditions, water levels, wave heights, air and water temperatures, and more. This data can be utilized in on-line educational activities. To sample activities and data sets used in this workshop, visit the Teaching with Great Lakes Science website.

Teacher assists with sediment core sample.
A high school teacher works with researchers to identify macrofossils in a sediment core.

Local Extinction Dynamics: A 300-Year Experiment

A research study conducted by scientists at Brown University and the University of Wyoming used paleoecological techniques to investigate contemporary extinction dynamics in pond communities in the Miller Woods section of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Researchers conducted a detailed study of extinction dynamics following major human disturbances of the mid-late 19th Century by examining plant macrofossils and pollen in well-dated sediment cores. An educational component of the project allowed a local high school teacher to assist and to develop educational lesson plans to compliment the project.

Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum: The Geology of National Parks Collection

Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum was a three-year project developed by Len Vacher, University of South Florida (USF), Tampa, to develop and test educational spreadsheet modules that enhance quantitative literacy wherever quantitative problems arise in the undergraduate curriculum. The project was supported by the National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, through award DUE 0442629 (7/2005-6/2008).

Faculty and graduate students in the University of South Florida Geology Department collaborated with eight NPS Research Learning Centers to develop the Geology of National Parks Collection.

The eight partner RLCs (and number of modules) are:

  • Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center (Great Smoky Mountains National Park,2 modules)
  • Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center (Glacier National Park, 2 modules)
  • Great Lakes Research and Education Center (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 2 modules, and Keweenaw National Historic Park, 1 module)
  • Greater Yellowstone Science Learning Center (Yellowstone National Park, 4 modules)
  • Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning (Mammoth Cave National Park, 2 modules)
  • Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center (Congaree National Park, 2 modules)
  • Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center (Point Reyes National Seashore, 3 modules)
  • Urban Ecology Research Learning Alliance (National Capital Region Parks, 2 modules)
Karner blue butterfly sips nectar from a yellow wildflower.
The Karner blue butterfly is the subject of lesson plans exploring endangered species and climate change.

USFWS; Joel Trick

Lesson Plans: Climate Change and the Karner Blue Butterfly

The University of Notre Dame and the United States Geological Survey have partnered with the National Park Service to study the impacts of climate change on the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. During the summers of 2013 and 2015, high school teacher Jill McNabnay was hired through the University of Notre Dame to participate in a Research Experience for Teachers with funding from the National Science Foundation. Jill worked at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and in the Hellman Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame assisting with the investigations. Based on these research experiences, work on her masters thesis at Michigan State University, and her previous teaching experience, Jill created a variety of lesson plans which she has made available for interested educators. Featured lessons connecting with the Karner blue research include climate change lessons (grade 9) and endangered species lessons (grade 12). Please e-mail to indicate your interest in viewing these exciting lessons!

Earth to Sky

In "Earth to Sky", interpreters, educators and scientists join in a collegial environment to learn and share science and communication techniques. Much of the science content focuses on climate change. The program fosters the development of interpretive and educational products and programs for use in refuges, parks and other sites of place-based education. The Earth to Sky community of practice is designed to enable participants to connect and collaborate with others through online training and resource sharing.

Network Parks' Educational Resources for Teachers and Students

Visit our network park and park partner Teacher/Education pages.

Last updated: January 17, 2018