Kelrick, Michael Ira .
Exotics in the wilderness: A version of “citizen science” at Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
As our need to recognize ecological change and to estimate the pace and tempo of such change has become more urgent, the value of consistent and continuous observations, gathered at the same geographic location, has increased. Such geographic foci – so-called “model ecosystems” – naturally develop where biological field stations occur. These model ecosystems are noteworthy because they facilitate the integration of current studies within the breadth and richness of accumulated local knowledge. Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) represents the geographic nexus for studies on such a model ecosystem.
A crucial component determining the special worth of the model ecosystem approach is its human infrastructure. An institution such as RMBL, having been devoted to an educational mission, provides a perennial infrastructural platform attracting intelligent, energetic and dedicated people (students) whose efforts can be fruitfully directed to accomplish more than “merely” completing a course. RMBL is uniquely situated – historically, geographically, politically and scientifically – within its model ecosystem, and we must seek ways to exercise the body of resident expertise to guide ecosystem management. The coursework program at RMBL is an infrastructural asset that can be leveraged to forge a working relationship between the institution as an especially valuable generator/repository of scientific knowledge about the local model ecosystem and the government agencies charged with managing that ecosystem. This working relationship can provide one mutualistic interface between RMBL and the management agencies.
The work of conservation biology is overwhelmingly large, and management agencies cannot hope to meet even the challenge of fundamental data collection required for inventorying and monitoring our biological resources. The coordination of interested, relatively “untrained” people (e.g., students) to accomplish credible, scientifically rigorous work represents a little-tapped source of effort to address conservation work. Highly trained scientists and the educational institutions with which they are affiliated are especially effective loci for the recruitment of “volunteers” who can be enlisted to conduct the work that management agencies cannot, while at the same time, learning what it takes to “do” conservation biology and making a valuable and otherwise inaccessible contribution to management needs.
I have developed a course at RMBL, now in its third year, that is a collaboration with the land managers of the US Forest Service Snowmass/Maroon Bells Wilderness. Course participants have designed and implemented a monitoring effort for non-indigenous plant species that have invaded the wilderness. Assessing the status of exotic, potentially invasive plant species has been a high, yet previously unaddressed priority for the Forest Service on these wilderness lands. I will discuss what the course has undertaken and what it has accomplished, as well as what has been required, both to insure the success of the endeavor, and to assure the quality of the data being collected.
1 - Truman State University, Division of Science, 100 E. Normal Street, Kirksville, Missouri, 63501-4221, USA
Presentation Type: Education
Location: Wasatch B (Cliff Lodge)
Date: Saturday, July 31st, 2004
Time: 9:30 AM