Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dale Miller

Second Advisor

Heidi Souder

Third Advisor

Joanna Lambert

Abstract

In practice, public land managers must constantly innovate and adapt to keep up with constantly changing issues and concerns associated with the public lands for which they are responsible. Having access to the most current and reliable information is critical to respond effectively to arising disturbances related to public lands. In an effort to increase civic engagement in National Parks, new management and information-gathering methods are being embraced, such as citizen science. Technology has greatly aided in gathering more information to match demands, as projects and tools for citizen science are continuously in development, building a community of passionate amateur scientists and observers to provide useful contributions. Many different types of valuable information can be collected from citizen scientists, but in this study I focus on internal National Park Service (NPS) impressions of usability and the value of citizen science within the NPS. The discussion reviews an application to invasive species that may be of use to land managers when attempting to track invasive vascular plants within terrestrial units of the National Park Service. To achieve this, I distributed surveys to colleagues within the National Park Service and organized projects within iNaturalist, an application that collects information on the biodiversity of all taxonomic groups, which filtered observations by previously treated species within the NPS and subregions. To supplement discussion, I also conducted interviews within the NPS regarding the feasible use of citizen science. Results demonstrate that there is considerably positive valuation of citizen science from the National Park Service perspective. In fact, passive, un-encouraged observations of invasive vascular plants on iNaturalist number well over 10,000 across all units of the national parks. The presence of this large source of data gives merit to citizen science as a powerful way to collect significant amounts of cost-effective information, enabling an expedient response to invasive species with a treatment practice known as early detection and rapid response (EDRR). The discussion supplements our findings by analyzing methods to make citizen-collected information actionable on the land manager’s behalf, and looks to the future of citizen science in national parks by taking a practical overview of our invasive species project and the results of it.

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