News: News Archives
Research Program in Parks
Spreads to All Americas
Karen Short had wondered how birds who build their nests on the ground are able to survive "prescribed burns," the fires that the government sets as part of its fire prevention program. Short, a fire ecologist, got a chance to dig deeply into the questions she had posed when she won a Canon National Parks Science Scholarship in 1998, an award that allowed her to expand her research and to spend additional time studying the birds in the American Southwest.
"I was able to employ as rigorous an experimental design as possible-something few grad students studying the effects of relatively large fires are able to do," says Short, a doctoral candidate at the University of Montana.
Short's experience is not unique among Canon National Parks Science Scholars. Across the nation, and soon the world, bright PhD students are taking their dissertations to national parks. They are asking and answering questions that previously seemed out of reach due to finances and logistics.
The Canon National Parks Science Scholars Program is a collaboration among Canon U.S.A., Inc., AAAS, and the U.S. National Park Service (USNPS). Begun in 1997, the program annually awards doctoral dissertation scholarships to support graduate student research in national parks. Beginning in 2002, the program is expanding to include student research in national parks throughout the Americas.
Before Short was selected for the scholarship, she had planned to study the effect of prescribed burns in one area, Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. With the award, she wildly surpassed her original plan. She traveled to additional sites across the Southwest to monitor the different plant and insect communities that sustain the birds before and after the fires.
"Few grad students have the time and financial support to conduct a replicated before-after-control-impact study of the effects of thousand-acre fires, as I did. I was able to take a regional approach to my study of prescribed burns, and that's ultimately the scale we need to make informed management decisions."
31 July 2002
For more information on the Canon program, read "Investing in Young Scientists."