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Culture of Connections in Research Topics
Elizabeth Brusati studies the impact of non-native grasses on the invertebrates in salt marshes in national parks along California's Pacific coast. Derek Christopher Martin is working to understand the low usage patterns of parks by African Americans in the Denver area. Alice K. Wondrak studied the cultural history of bears in Yellowstone National Park.
The breadth of their research creates a culture of connections-analogous to the wildlife corridors set up to link animals in danger of becoming isolated from potential mates. Information, ideas and pieces of the big picture are flowing between researchers working in national parks the way genes flow between populations in separate but successfully linked wilderness areas.
Susan Prichard, a forest ecologist from the University of Washington described one aspect of this communication. "I enjoyed meeting the other Canon students. I made some good friends through the program, and I imagine they will turn into colleagues."
Dissertation research focused on national parks is expected to continue as the young scientists develop their careers and move to positions with increasing influence in park management.
Nichole Barger is a Canon Scholar and desert ecologist working in Canyonlands National Park.
"Park visitors are generally curious people, and their questions give me a chance to explain the importance of environmental research in making land management decisions."
With each passing year, the highest quality research continues. Scientific and public understanding of critical park issues improves. Field work becomes more sophisticated as new technologies are employed and research builds on the work of others. Dramatic and subtle settings alike are studied and preserved. Canon scholars leave knowledge trails that criss-cross the globe.
Karen Short's legacy can be seen in the forests of Saguaro National Park, where she focused on connections between understory grasses and the Yellow-eyed Junco-a sparrow-like bird that feeds and nests in these grasses. She recorded "bust" and then "boom" years for both the grasses and the birds following prescribed burning. From there, she set to work on simulations using these data to investigate the kinds of long-term effects regular prescribed burns may have on a population of the ground-nesting birds.
Despite the heady, complex and relevant research projects that scientists like Short pursue, a pleasant levity rooted in the experiences of field work permeates the program.
Says Nichole Barger, "Sometimes I'm known as the girl who sits in the desert and watches that weird looking instrument!"
31 July 2002
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