Latest species tracked in na­tional parks: Hu­mans

The China Post - - LIFE - BY MEAD GRUVER

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.

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