Environment and Species Monitoring

woman with a transect looking intently at dirt and rocks
Species Monitoring - Sequoia National Park

NPS Photo

The National Park Service’s goal to preserve natural areas unimpaired for future generations depends on knowing the conditions of natural resources within parks. New factors and dangers continue to threaten our ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes parks, so it is essential to monitor changes and “vital signs” (important physical, chemical, and biological elements) in park environments and understand how activities outside of the park may be influencing natural processes inside of it. Even small differences in things like population numbers, water temperature, and air quality can signal larger problems in an ecosystem, and can provide an early warning of poor conditions. Having a baseline of information about a park ecosystem can also help us to determine whether changes are a result of natural or human influences.

Monitoring data can be an extremely important resource for park managers and planners who are looking to implement new research, education, or restoration programs, or who are hoping to measure progress towards project goals. Park staff who have a greater knowledge of park health and the factors contributing to it can also share that information and collaborate with other organizations who are working to improve unhealthy natural areas outside of park bounds. Thus, monitoring results can contribute not only to the health of national parks but also to the health of our nation as a whole.

As a volunteer, you can add your efforts to a park’s monitoring program in a variety of ways. Many parks have opportunities to help track the population numbers of significant or keystone species, while others need volunteers to locate native and exotic plants. The kinds of positions available are diverse and often flexible. Some you can even complete during recreational activities, like counting the number of fish you see while diving. To learn more about inventory and monitoring at national parks and how you can help, visit the links below.

For Further Reading

NPS Inventory and Monitoring

Tidepool Monitoring at Cabrillo National Monument

Marine Life Observation at Biscayne National Park

Great Annual Fish Count at Channel Islands National Park

Natural Resources Management at Isle Royale National Park


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    Last updated: December 9, 2021


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