Environmental Change

black and white image of rocky mountain with glaciers descending black and white image of rocky mountain with glaciers descending

Left image
Long Hill, Chilkoot Trail, Alaska, 1898.
Credit: Yukon Archives, Anton Vogee Collection fonds, #311.

Right image
Long Hill, Chilkoot Trail, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Alaska, 2013.
Credit: NPS/R. Karpilo & S. Venator.

Park environments change all the time, sometimes gradually and sometimes quickly. The National Park Service (NPS) needs to understand and track those changes so we can take care of the parks. There are a lot of things to measure -- both the environment itself and the way species respond to change.

Some citizen science projects help the NPS track change. One example is the timing of leaf and flower production by plants. That’s the science of phenology. It’s important because it shows which plants are affected by climate change.

Another example is measuring mercury concentrations in dragonfly larvae. Collecting dragonfly larvae in ponds and lakes is easy and a lot of fun for citizen scientists. The levels of mercury in their tissues is a good indicator of aquatic ecosystem health. Parks use that information to track impacts as regional air pollution gets better or worse over the years.

Environmental Change Projects and Stories