Latest species tracked in national parks: Humans
Scientists are putting tracking devices on an unusual species — people — as they try to learn more about how their movements affect ecosystems in national parks.
Park visitors carrying global positioning devices have provided Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado with data to improve shuttle service to a popular, and often congested, lake. Another study at Yosemite National Park in California tracked where people stroll through two popular meadows.
Now, people- tracking by researchers with Penn State and Utah State is helping Grand Teton National Park make decisions about a popular southern approach to the park, including whether they should add parking areas, restrooms and a multipurpose trail along the way.
Participation in the tracking studies is voluntary, the researchers say, and most folks are glad to help. Between 80 and 90 percent of those asked to carry a GPS receiver in Grand Teton in 2013 and 2014 agreed to participate. Hardly anybody failed to return the devices upon leaving the study area.
“People love their parks. They love to answer questions and know that their voice is being heard in some way,” said Peter Newman, a professor in Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development who specializes in recreation, park and tourism management.
The same tracking technology that informs bus schedules in megacities can help prevent big concentrations of people in national parks, said Kevin Heaslip, a former Utah State associate professor who recently joined Virginia Tech.
Questionnaires handed out along with the GPS units asked what people wanted from their visit to Grand Teton. The researchers compared the survey responses to where people went, which they could plot in the backcountry to within 3 meters or less.