Caring for the American Legacy

Why conduct research in National Parks?

National Parks are an American legacy. The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. That is a huge job, particularly in light of the many challenges facing parks today. To take the best possible care of these parks, managers need to know as much as they can about the resources within them. That's where the researchers can help. Scientists investigate topics and issues revolving around natural and cultural resources in the parks, and the information they yield helps park managers do their jobs.

Permits and Investigator Annual Reports (IARs)

Researchers wishing to conduct scientific investigations in national parks must apply for a research permit.

Each year, investigators submit an annual report summarizing the status of their projects. The Research Permit and Reporting System houses these reports known as the Investigator's Annual Reports (IARs). Use the 'Search' dropdown menu in the upper left and select 'Investigator's Annual Reports.' Next, enter the national park name and reporting year that interest you.

A student intern participates in a bear study.
A student intern from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore participates in a bear study.

Research Internships

Since 2004 the GLREC has offered research internships for undergraduate and graduate students during summer months to conduct studies in national parks of the Great Lakes region. The goals of the program are to: 1) support the education and career development of students and recent graduates via research opportunities, and 2) provide needed data and information pertaining to important issues and problems associated with resource management in parks. The program meets the NPS Call to Action, which provides scholarly opportunities to students. Funding for research internships is up to $2,500 per season.

For information on future research internships, contact the Great Lakes Research and Education Center's research coordinator.

Research Needs

View a list of specific research needs identified by staff at each individual park in the network as well as lists of general research needed across all the network parks and climate change related research needed across all the network parks.

If you have research ideas or suggestions, please email our research coordinator for park information.

Facilities for Researchers and Students

The Great Lakes Research and Education Center at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore can often offer office space, laboratory space, and inexpensive lodging to visiting researchers.

Other parks associated with the Great Lakes Research and Education Center may have facilities including field laboratories, office space, lodging, and conference rooms for faculty and student researchers' use while conducting in-park research.

Publications, Reports, and Summaries

pitcher plants
Pitcher plants

Joy Marburger

Exploring the influence of genetic diversity on pitcher plant restoration in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

By Jennifer M. Karberg, Joy Marburger, and Margaret R. Gale

In restoration efforts, the decision to supplement plant populations with outside seed sources can be complicated.The genetic relatedness of the populations must be considered. In this paper, authors examine the genetic variation between pitcher plants at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and those at other national parks in the Great Lakes region to determine the possibility of using seed from regional sources for restoration at Indiana Dunes.


Joy Marburger

Cattail hybridization in national parks: An example of cryptic plant invasions By Joy Marburger and Steve Travis

Hybridization of plants occurs when two species from the same or different genera mate and can successfully produce viable seeds. Hybridization of plants can increase genetic diversity, but it can also result in aggressive plants that can displace native species and reduce biodiversity. Cattail hybridization has facilitated cattail spread in many wetlands across North America. From 2004 to 2012 authors evaluated whether cattail hybridization was occurring in nine national parks.

Last updated: January 11, 2018