National Park Service monitoring project kicks off at Western

CULLOWHEE – Geology experts from across the United States gathered at Western Carolina University June 28-30 to kick off a nationwide effort to develop a geologic monitoring manual for the National Park Service.

The project is made possible by a $118,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior. The grant will enable Rob Young, associate professor of geology at Western, to enlist students in Western’s department of geosciences and natural resources management to team with scientists from across the country to develop methods for tracking geological changes within the National Park System.

When complete, the manual will serve as a catalogue to help researchers identify vital signs of natural resources and geological assets within national parks. The manual also will include information on the importance of monitoring each vital sign, along with a list of commonly accepted representative protocols for monitoring. The ultimate goal of the project is to create a manual for resource managers to guide long-term monitoring programs in a variety of land management settings, Young said.

Scientists attending the workshop include experts in coastal features, caves, glaciers, mountains, paleontology, seismic and volcanic activity, and permafrost.

Project participants attending the meeting in Cullowhee are: Nick Lancaster, executive director, Center for Arid Lands Environmental Management at the Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nev.; Rick Toomey, Mammoth Cave Research Learning Center, Mammoth Cave National Park, Ky.; David Blackwell, department of geological sciences, Southern Methodist University, Dallas; Ron Karpilo, National Park Service Geologic Resources Division, Denver; Gerald Wieczorek, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.; David Bush, associate professor of geosciences, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, Ga.; Vincent Santucci, chief ranger, George Washington Memorial Parkway, McLean, Va.; Tom Osterkamp, specialist in permafrost features and processes, St. Clair, Mo.; Torre Jorgenson of ABR Inc., an environmental research and services company, Fairbanks, Alaska; Larry Braile, department of earth and atmospheric sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.; Nick Allmendinger and Mark Lord of Western’s department of geosciences and natural resource management; Dru Germanoski, the Ervin R. VanArtsdalen Professor of Geology at Lafayette College in Easton, Penn.; and Jim Quick, Volcano Hazards Program coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey in Newton, Va.

National Park Service participants are: Lisa Norby of the National Park Service Geologic Resources Division; Linda L. York, coastal geomorphologist; Robert Emmott, coordinator of Appalachian Highlands Inventory and Monitoring Network; and Keith Langdon, chief of inventory and monitoring at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Publication of the manual will occur in two formats – a Web-based searchable database, along with a complementary volume published by the Geological Society of America.

The project is an outgrowth of ongoing partnerships between the National Park Service and Western’s department of geosciences and natural resources management, and should be complete by summer 2006. Young spent much of the fall 2004 semester studying the impact of the nation’s largest dam removal project on water quality in Olympic National Park in Washington.

For more information about Western’s programs in geosciences and natural resources management, call (828) 227-7367.