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Research in Yellowstone Park

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1 Research in Yellowstone Park
For those of you that I haven’t had the pleasure to meet in person, my name is Christie Hendrix and I am the Park’s research coordinator. Talk a little bit about the different research happening in Yellowstone, how we permit research in Yellowstone, and will also talk about some of the policy and regulations that provides oversight for research in national parks.

2 Stacey Gunther Stacey gunther, my coworker collecting a grizzly bear collar from a vacant den

3 Overview Each year… The Research Permit Office issues ~200 research permits Approximately new research requests In 2010, researchers from 35 states and 5 foreign countries Last year we issued over 200 researcher permits We approve about new research requests every year. And we drew in researchers from 35 U.S. states and 5 foreign countries. Bruce Fouke

4 Research Permits I wanted to throw in this slide to demonstrate that Yellowstone has had a significant volume of research for many decades. As you can see, there was a spike of research in the 80’s that likely coincided with the creation of YNP’s Research Division (now known as Yellowstone Center for Resources).

5 Research by Discipline
As you can tell from this pie chart, there is a variety of research occurring in YNP. BUT research tends to focus on animals, plants/forestry, geology and microbiology. We have had an increase in geology studies since the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory partnership was formed. Microbiology makes up a solid 25% of the research that occurs in Yellowstone.

6 Summer vs. Winter Most all research in Yellowstone occurs in summer months, between May-September. Only 20% researchers conduct studies year-round Now most of the park’s research occurs in summer, mostly due to the logistical difficulties associated with conducting winter work. However, some projects need the winter environment. Ten research groups work primarily in the winter: wolf vocalization study, wolf behavior and interactions study, 1 aspen/elk/wolf trophic, sound monitoring, snowpack chemistry, NPS wolf, bison, winter wildlife monitoring study, geomorpholgy of Mammoth Terraces, and wolverine.

7 National Parks Omnibus Act of 1998 (Thomas Bill)
“The Secretary [of the Interior]…is directed to assure that management of units of the National Park System is enhanced by the availability and utilization of a broad program of the highest quality science and information.” “The Secretary shall…assure the full and proper utilization of the results of scientific study for park management decisions.” Now, It is important understand that the NPS has a mandate to encourage and support, as well as utilize the results of research, in making resource management decisions. Specifically, the 1998 Thomas Bill states that…. “The Secretary [of the Interior]…is directed to assure that management of units of the National Park System is enhanced by the availability and utilization of a broad program of the highest quality science and information.” It also states that: “The Secretary shall…assure the full and proper utilization of the results of scientific study for park management decisions.”

8 Other Law and Policy that Regulates Research Activities
National Environmental Policy Act Archeological Resources Protection Act National Historic Preservation Act Wilderness Act Code of Federal Regulations NEPA ensures step-wise evaluations of projects to ensure that they do not impacts natural or cultural resources and that when necessary public opinion is sought for large studies (bison vaccination). ARPA – screen projects to ensure they won’t affect known archeological sites. NHPA – ensures that historic resources such as a cultural landscape, an ethnographic resource, or a historic building or its setting is not impacted by research Wilderness Act-prohibited uses in wilderness areas include No temporary roads, No use of motor vehicles, motorboats, or other motorized equipment, No landing of aircraft, No mechanical transport (wheelbarrows, bicycles, etc.), No structure installation CFR-authorizes the use of a research and collection permit for scientific activities

9 Permitting Requirements
Research project must not adversely impact… public health and safety environmental or scenic values natural or cultural resources other scientific research implementation of management responsibilities proper allocation and use of facilities visitor use activities According to the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1.6, a special use permit for research can be issued if a research study does not adversely impact… (read bullets)

10 Permitting Requirements, contd.
Researchers must be affiliated with a university, research facility, or government agency. Researchers must adhere to all park regulations and the conditions of their permit. Researchers are required to renew permit annually and complete an annual report. Must agree to supply NPS with copies of student theses, unpublished reports, and journal articles. In addition to these requirements, Scientific research permits are only issued if the research is … affiliated with a university, a research organization (such as the Nature Conservancy, or the Wildlife Conservation Society), or another government agency. The researcher must agree, in advance, to adhere to all park regulations and the conditions of their permit… And they must agree to fulfill reporting obligations. In Yellowstone, these include filing an annual report and providing copies of journal articles, dissertations, and other reports.

11 University research studies provide the park valuable information

12 The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is at least 140,000 years old.

13 The things we can’t see might be valuable to society
Over 40 patents involve YNP research A Virus in a Fungus in a Plant: Three-Way Symbiosis Required for Thermal Tolerance Luis M. Márquez,1 Regina S. Redman,2,3 Russell J. Rodriguez,2,4 Marilyn J. Roossinck1* Curvularia found in hot springs panic grass found to confer heat tolerance to hot springs panic grass. Works in other plants. MSU has applied for a patent for this technology and has licensed the technology to a company for development. Thermus brockianus enzyme, heat stable, breaks down hydrogen peroxide in to oxygen and water. MSU discovery of a fungus that that converting ligno-cellulosic agricultural waste into biofuels. The fungus produces ethanol, hydrogen, and lipids for biodiesel. Has applied for a patent. “The fungus functions over a wide pH range which mitigates the need for costly pH neutralization steps and enzyme degradation required in typical agro-waste biofuel processes. The fungus also produces natural pesticides that can reduce contamination from competing organisms. The pesticides include antibiotics that provide an additional opportunity for developing new technology from the Fusarium fungus.” PyroPhage-first thermostable enzyme used in DNA fingerprinting that was cloned from bacteriophage (or virus). Vicki Thompson holds a flask of the catalase enzyme her team discovered, that breaks down hydrogen peroxide into harmless oxygen and water. (INL photo)

14 Someone actually studies (and cares about) nematodes that parasitize mosquito larvae
Edward Platzer

15 It’s easier to fish using an electrical current than it is with a fly rod.
Many fisheries studies in Yellowstone rely heavily on catching fish using electrofishing, where fish are temporarily stunned (for a period of seconds and can be netted into live wells for research purposes, and then released unharmed). This is a picture from an arctic grayling study in Yellowstone.

16 Otters are not only cute, but are important members of aquatic and terrestrial food webs.
Nutrient cycling Jim Peaco-NPS

17 Are you collecting over there, or making a deposit?
You can learn a whole lot about wildlife populations, just by collecting animal poop Are you collecting over there, or making a deposit? Food habits, Disease work, Genetics, Even general species presence/absence distribution and use of habitats. Photos clockwise from top right-NPS, NPS, R. Raymond, F. Gardipee; inset photo Foos

18 Photos from Top Left-J Merkl, Davis-NPS, J Merkl, NPS, Davis-NPS, Murphy

19 Do You know what a bryophyte or slime mold is??
Neither did I. A slime mold is a broad term describing fungus-like organisms that use spores to reproduce. They were formerly classified as fungi, but are no longer considered part of this kingdom. Most are in the group myxomycetes. Bryophytes are mosses and liverworts. They do not have vascular tissue, flowers, or seeds.

20 Cyanobacteria can reduce phosphonate to phosphate for cell growth and maintenance. Phosphonates are commonly found in herbicides, flame retardants, and plasticizers. Cyanobacteria are also photosynthetic by day, and at night when the sun goes down, they start metabolizing nitrogen. Photos courtesy of Ward Lab, MSU The thing is that microorganisms flourish in conditions that are unbearable for most lifeforms.

21 Funny things happen… Occasionally we come across interesting phenomena, like these amelanistic salamanders

22 Wolf reintroduction lead to increased research interest on northern range
Dan Stahler-NPS Bob Landis

23 Questions?

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