Research Permitting Policy

It is the policy of the National Park Service to guarantee that management of parks is enhanced by the highest quality scientific information. Understanding our natural and cultural resources is vital to improving park management and expanding scientific knowledge. Research will be allowed as long as it can be conducted in a manner that does not threaten or diminish the resources for which Yellowstone National Park was established.

Research projects designed to advance the understanding of resources or systems that are considered to be a top priority to park managers are strongly encouraged-we request that researchers contact the park to gain assistance designing studies accordingly. However, "pure" research designed to advance broad scientific understanding is also recognized as potentially significant. Because of Yellowstone’s unique character and relatively wild condition, it is understood that the park will attract investigators whose interests may appear unrelated to management’s present needs. As far as practicable, such investigators are welcome to pursue their research in Yellowstone.

A Scientific Research and Collection Permit is required to conduct research in the park. The Scientific Research and Collection Permit will be approved by the Superintendent or their authorized representative. The following criteria are used to evaluate research proposals.

  • Is the proposed research in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and federal administrative policies?
  • Will the proposed activity result in degradation of the values and purposes of the park?
  • Could the proposed research be performed outside of the park?
  • Is the proposed research important to the stated scientific resource management goals of the park?
  • Does the proposed research unreasonably disturb park resources or visitors?
  • Has the proposed research been peer-reviewed by recognized experts and recommended as scientifically valid (copies of at least two recommendations must accompany the proposal)?
  • Does the proposed research require additional state, federal, or local permits? Have those permits been obtained?
  • Does the proposed research require collection of specimens or artifacts? What will be the disposition of any collected specimens?
  • Does the proposed research encumber National Park Service resources that may be limited (e.g., government housing, equipment, or logistical support)?

This screening process is designed to ensure that park resources and visitors are not unduly affected by the research, that all investigators are treated fairly, and to allow appropriate tracking and reporting of park research. A researcher must be an official representative of a reputable scientific or educational institution or governmental agency. Students who propose to conduct research studies must have a representative from their institution or agency serve as the principal investigator.

The collection of certain specimens may require additional federal or state permits. For example, to collect migratory birds, a Migratory Bird Permit must be obtained from the appropriate state natural resource agency or from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The examination, excavation, or removal of archaeological, historical, vertebrate paleontological, or other artifacts requires an Antiquities Act Permit. It is the responsibility of the researcher to apply for and obtain all necessary permits prior to receiving a park research permit.

All specimens collected within the park are the property of the National Park Service. Regardless of where the collections are stored, they must be properly accessioned and cataloged into the National Park Service’s cataloging system. Collecting of specimens not authorized on your permit or for private purposes is not allowed. Researchers are required to report all results of their investigations to the park annually. Copies of final reports, papers, theses, or other publications relating to research findings in Yellowstone National Park should be sent to the Research Permit Office, Yellowstone Center for Resources, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190. These materials will be filed in the Yellowstone National Park Research Library where they are available to park resource managers, other researchers, and the public. Failure to abide by these terms, or others outlined in the Scientific Research and Collecting Permit, may result in permit revocation or a citation.

Last updated: June 15, 2016

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168



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