Education

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!

Resources for Teachers

GLOS Buoy
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.

Recent Events

Teachers surround a large paper on the floor and utilize "creature cards" to learn about Great Lakes food web.
Educators sample activities they can use with their students.

NPS photo

Great Lakes in My World Educator Workshop
at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Saturday, September 29


On Saturday, September 29, educators working with youth in grades 3 – 12 spent the day immersed in educational activities that explore the Great Lakes and Great Lakes issues. This workshop was held in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, near Empire, Michigan. Participants received a copy of the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Great Lakes in My World Curriculum Guide to take home. The K-8 Guide features activities covering lakes, sand dunes, wetlands, human communities, history and geology – all as they relate to our Great Lakes! The guide for grades 9 – 12 focuses on coastal habitats, restoration, careers and stewardship. The event was co-sponsored by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore , the Great Lakes Research and Education Center, and the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Funding was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
A tour boat is docked along the edge of a Great Lakes Tributary.  The water is in the foreground, and the forested shoreline is visible behind the boat.
The Emita II awaits the next batch of educators and quieter waters.

Photo by Harbor Country Adventures

Educators’ Back to School Boat Ride
Saturday, September 22, 2018


On Saturday, September 22, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., educators’ working with students in grades K- 12 were invited to enjoy a FREE morning on Lake Michigan! The plan was to come aboard the Emita II in Michigan City, IN, and enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan and views of our amazing Indiana Dunes from a cruise along the Indiana shoreline. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate and the boat was unable to go out. Instead of a boat ride, participants met at Mount Baldy in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and learned about educational activities they can use to help their students learn about our Great Lakes. They also spoke first hand with researchers and learned about Great Lakes focused research projects USGS scientists are currently conducting beneath the lake’s waters!

Each participant received a Great Lakes in My World Curriculum Guide developed by the Alliance for the Great Lakes. This event was co-sponsored by Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the Great Lakes Research and Education Center, Dunes Learning Center, and the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Funding was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. .
A group of interpreters in civilian clothes present a mini-program while others watch.
Interpreters share mini-programs designed to share about amphibian research during an iSWOOP training session at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

NPS photo

iSWOOP in Action at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore


iSWOOP stands for "Interpreters and Scientists Working on Our Parks". In June of 2018, the iSWOOP team arrived in Northwest Indiana and helped interpreters and resource managers at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore learn about research being conducted by Dr. Robert Brodman and also by Dr. Erin Argyilan and Dr. Todd Thompson. Brodman's research focuses on the impacts of climate change on amphibians in the park. That of Argyilan and Thompson look into phenomena related to changes through time at the Mount Baldy sand dune. Participating interpreters learn techniques to communicate effectively with the public about these projects. Now interpreters are sharing about this research in a variety of ways. iSWOOP focuses on different research projects in different national parks. Learn more about iSWOOP.

Last updated: October 4, 2018