Member Highlight: New Articles on Role of National Parks in History of Ecology & More

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New Web Articles on National Parks in the History of Science

National parks in the United States have hosted some of the most significant and influential research projects in ecology and other fields. Many of those studies have launched new lines of inquiry, revealed new taxa, informed foundational ideas in a variety of disciplines, provided “real-world” complements to laboratory studies, and even launched new technologies. By playing important roles in the history of science, US national parks have contributed uniquely to our global intellectual heritage.

Examples from ecology include the discovery of thermophilic bacteria (and subsequent development of PCR technology) at Yellowstone National Park; niche partitioning by foraging warblers at Acadia National Park; long-term predator-prey studies on Isle Royale National Park; and the first evidence for plant succession at what later became Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Through a project initially conceived by Tim Watkins (NPS) and Jill Baron (USGS and CO State University), the National Park Service has begun collaborating with ecologists and others to find and tell these stories. The first products are 8 web articles written by graduate students recently enrolled in Katia Engelhardt’s “Classic Readings in Ecology” course at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Please read and share the articles.

We plan to build a compendium of stories and are now beginning production of two short videos — one on Cowles’s 1890s work on plant succession at Indiana Dunes, and one on Simberloff’s & Wilson’s 1969 experiments on island biogeography in the Everglades.

If you have additional examples of US national parks that have shaped the history of one or more scientific disciplines, please let us know by email.


Contributed by C&E Section member Tim Watkins