Students contributed to the collection of scientific data as part of a NPS centennial project.

WEST GLACIER, MONT – The Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center (CCRLC) at Glacier National Park hosted 45 students from Flathead and Columbia Falls High Schools in Montana, De La Salle Collegiate High School from Warren, Michigan, and Luther College from Decorah, Iowa for the Glacier Lake Ecology BioBlitz on May 25-26th. Students observed loons nesting, feeding, calling, and interacting on lakes in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park.

Guest instructors, Dr. Diana Six, an anthropologist from the University of Montana, and Kelly Franklin, a Systems Ecology PhD student and intern with the Montana Geographic Alliance, taught the students about lake productivity and the role of diverse species in the lake ecology food web. The project was supported by funding from the National Park Service and the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

“The scientific data gathered by the students will contribute to the Common Loon Citizen Science Project and will be shared with the Montana Loon Society and the state of Montana’s Common Loon Working Group,” said CCRLC Director Tara Carolin. “Montana has the largest population of common loons in the northwest continental U.S., and 20% of Montana’s population reproduce and summer in Glacier, so the data is very important to developing a strategy for long term conservation of loons in Montana.”

Students sampled lakes for two days using survey techniques and ecological information learned in the course. Students found more than thirty different taxa including diving beetles, water stick-insects, and, maybe the most remarkable, judging by student reactions, was either a rather large leech or a garter snake in the vegetation.  Dr. Diana Six and Kelly Franklin helped the students identify insect larvae and adults, amphibian egg masses, mollusks, and crustaceans from the soil and surfaces of the lakes. Students recorded their findings using the free iNaturalist app on their smartphones which contributed data to the 2016 National Parks BioBlitz event.

‘This was as fun for me as it was for the students! They were really engaged and excited and collectively we all learned a lot.” said Dr. Diana Six enthusiastically. “It was pretty amazing to see the shift in biodiversity from one site to another. I can’t wait to do another one.”

The Lake Ecology BioBlitz is part of a larger effort coordinated by the National Park Service to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the biodiversity of a park and contribute to a greater understanding of the biodiversity of the nation. In addition to obtaining valuable species information from targeted inventories with scientists, this is a tremendous opportunity to engage youth and expose them to hands-on resource stewardship. For more information on the Citizen Science program at Glacier National Park visit the website at Glacier's Citizen Science Program.

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