Parks in the North Coast and Cascades Network provide extraordinary places to conduct research on a wide variety of topics. The North Coast and Cascades Network extends from the diverse intertidal assemblages along the Washington and Oregon coasts over the permanent snow and ice fields atop Mount Rainier and down the drier eastern slopes of the northern Cascades. Global warming is rapidly altering our landscape as evidenced by the 53% loss of glacial area within North Cascades National Park since 1900. More recently, studies have documented an 18% loss of glacial area in Olympic National Park since 2009, increasing tree establishment in subalpine meadows, and temporal shifts in plant phenology. The swift rate of climate change and uncertainty of predicted changes to ecosystems provide urgency for national parks to establish baselines for future evaluation, to predict future changes, and to integrate this knowledge into park management and outreach.
Currently, the Network’s baseline for future evaluation of ecosystem change relies on a limited number of “Vital Signs” that comprise the National Park Service’s long-term monitoring programs. Short-term or focused research studies conducted by graduate students and other non-NPS scientists play an important role in increasing our understanding of our natural, cultural, and sociologic resources. We invite and encourage research by non-NPS scholars from academic and government organizations to conduct park-based research to increase our understanding of ecosystems, past human adaptation to our environments, and contemporary humans and their interactions with our parks.