2021 Projects that need your support
Plants, Animals and Ecosystems
Preventing Catastrophic Mussel Infestation
It’s hard to overestimate what is at stake in preventing the introduction of invasive mussels into the park’s pristine waters and more broadly, to the ecosystem of the Columbia River Basin. One fully mature female zebra muscle can produce hundreds of thousands of eggs in a single season. That’s why inspection of every watercraft – kayaks and paddle-boards included – that launches in Glacier merits a robust public-private partnership that leverages state, federal and private funds to keep the Columbia River Basin free of this destructive invasive species.
Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship
Glacier Park’s mountain faces, rich forests, and pristine lakes are a marvel for the eye often accompanied by a natural chorus of birds. Despite their importance to the park ecosystems, many bird species are under threat as their habitats decline. This grant funds a Monitoring Avian Survivorship and Productivity Station (MAPS) that provides park management with actionable information about bird population levels in the park. The MAPS program is a continent-wide, collaborative effort to assist in the conservation of birds and their habitats through demographic monitoring. MAPS stations are standardized, constant-effort, bird mist-netting, and banding stations operated during the breeding season.
The program incorporates interns from Columbia Falls High School, helping inspire the next generation of biologists.
Restoring Clark’s Nutcracker, Whitebark and Limber Pine
One of Glacier park’s most important ecosystems is in danger of extinction. The Clark’s nutcracker spreads and stores seeds from Whitebark and Limber Pine Trees. High in fat and protein, 19 different animal species rely on Whitebark and Limber Pine seeds for their diet. Bears are particularly fond of the seeds, and a precipitous decline in both tree species threatens to drive bear foraging to lower altitudes, resulting in dangerous interactions with hikers.
Both Whitebark and Limber Pine are in danger of extinction due to an infestation of blister rust, fire exclusion and mountain pine beetles. This grant supports the continuation of a graduate study begun in 2020 examining this complex and mutualistic relationship between keystone species as well as seasonal wildlife technicians to assist in carrying out the study.
Bighorn Sheep Movements
There are few animals that can match the majesty found in the herds of bighorn sheep that populate Glacier National Park.
The sheeps’ namesake horns make them a classic symbol of the park. Glacier has one of only two large native populations of bighorns in Montana with multiple loosely connected herds. However, their patterns of movement and the environmental characteristics affecting their movement are poorly understood. This project leverages existing bighorn sheep GPS collar research by the U.S. Geological Survey (2001-2011) to significantly enhance the actionable knowledge base about migrations of the park’s majestic bighorn sheep population. Specifically, it will support a groundbreaking “cost” analysis that allows for conservation and protection of preferred movement areas. This is particularly important given the threat of respiratory disease which can decimate bighorn populations. This park-specific work will continue a cooperative partnership with Montana State University on a statewide study of bighorn sheep.
Surveying Glacier’s Lynx Population Year III
This three year study on lynx habitats and population in Glacier National Park is addressing significant gaps in our knowledge of this mysterious animal known as the shadow of the forest. Though listed as threatened on the endangered species list, little is known about lynx habitats or population within the park.
Through the use of camera traps, this study will effectively determine lynx population and habitat within Glacier park. This actionable information is especially vital as the lynx is particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Mountain Goat Research
Wildlife sightings are the highlight of any trip to Glacier National Park, but high visitation is often stressful for animals. Many visitors come into close contact with goats that congregate near popular tourist destinations. Goats are an important part of Glacier’s ecosystem, but little is known about how they are affected by their close proximity to humans.
Research in Yellowstone National Park established that bison near plowed trails exhibit higher levels of stress from repeated interactions with humans. This grant will complete a four year study that examines goat stress levels and movement patterns. The project is led by professional biologists with an important assist from Glacier’s Citizen Science program who can help collect scat samples for analysis.
Learning how humans affect mountain goats can help Glacier national park better communicate with visitors the importance of respecting wildlife. When completed, the study is set to be published in a peer reviewed journal and presented at multiple talks to managers and professionals at other parks, helping spread awareness about proper protocol for tourists wildlife interactions.
Grizzly Bear Diet Study: Cutworm Moths Year III
Grizzly bears at Glacier National Park receive over 50% of their caloric intake from the army cutworm moth. Funding for this study supports aerial and ground surveys to help determine the habitats and patterns of coexistence between grizzly bears and army cutworm moths.
In 2020 the study is expanding the number of field personnel as it continues to examine the relationship between grizzly bears and army cutworm moths. During the third and final year of this study, data will be analyzed and compiled into a final report to be used by park managers and wildlife biologists in Glacier and beyond.
Two Dog Flats Native Plant Recovery
The meadows at Two Dog Flats are one of Glacier’s natural treasures. Immortalized in the photo albums of many Glacier visitors, the meadows also serve as a valuable source of food for wildlife. Unfortunately, the meadows’ proximity to the heavily trafficked Going-to-the-Sun Road threatens their delicate ecology as cars bring in non-native plants and invasive weeds. Glacier National Park has been using pesticides to prevent the spread of invasive plant species for almost thirty years, but the effects of herbicides in the park are poorly understood.
This grant supports a research effort to determine the effects of herbicides on the meadows of Two Dog Flats. Researchers will study the effects of herbicides on soil samples, and work to determine how native plants can best withstand the invasive species.
Rare Plant Monitoring
One of Glacier National Park’s chief responsibilities is preserving the rare plants and ecosystems within the park. This grant helps Glacier monitor 16 rare plant species all found within the park. Monitoring plots are established and surveyed, giving park management an estimate of the population of different plant species. This survey was last conducted 15 years ago, and this study will inform future conservation efforts by revealing any trends in the populations of rare plants within the park.
Grassland Health Monitoring
Glacier National Park’s grasslands are one of the park’s most important environments. This multi-year study on the vegetation and bird populations in Glacier’s grasslands complement an initial study completed 20 years prior on the same plots of land, allowing for a much deeper understanding as to how Glacier has changed over time.
The study is especially important as the Blackfeet Confederacy, one of Glacier’s neighbors, begins to reintroduce bison to tribal lands as part of the Iinnii Initiative. Some of these bison may graze in Glacier grasslands, and this study will give the park a baseline understanding of those areas before bison reintroduction. The study will also be helpful in managing grasslands in relation to climate change, weed invasion and fire ecology.
Cooperative Greenhouse Propagation Specialist
The Columbia Falls High School Cooperative Greenhouse offers students the chance to grow plants native to Glacier National Park and participate in restoration projects in the park.
The greenhouse is an important outreach effort for the park, introducing students to the importance of conservation by letting them participate in maintaining delicate park ecosystems.
Under the supervision of a professional botanist, students are responsible for stratification, rinsing seeds, sowing seeds, filling containers, watering, thinning, monitoring plants for pests and disease, and managing greenhouse sanitation.
The greenhouse has raised over 30,000 plants during its operation, and students are responsible for up to 6,000 plants at any one time.
This project would not be possible without the continued support of the Glacier National Park Volunteer Associates.
Education and Youth Programs
Half the Park Happens After Dark
When the sun sets the stars emerge, one of Glacier National Park’s most popular programs is ready to begin. Over 7,000 visitors attended a Half the Park Happens After Dark event in 2019. Dark Sky education events introduce visitors to the magic of the night sky as well as offer solar viewing opportunities. After a lengthy application process, Waterton-Glacier was recognized as the first transboundary Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. Glacier’s designation as a Dark Sky Park is a testament to the park’s commitment to preserving the majesty of its dark skies by limiting light pollution.
Your support helps Glacier maintain a long-term commitment to preserving dark skies by funding on-site astronomy volunteers and interns, astronomy education programs, astronomy events, and the operation of Glacier’s new Dusty Star observatory. These resources allow Glacier visitors to see the stars and planets above with a clarity impossible in areas with light pollution.
This funding will also assist in hosting a three-day Night Sky Academy Training in August 2021 that will provide park staff and partners an opportunity for training in night sky related programming and projects.
During COVID-19 park staff are busy purchasing and installing new equipment for the observatory, completing additional training, and developing distance learning programs.
Native America Speaks and Tribal Engagement
For 36 years the Native America Speaks (NAS) program has provided an opportunity for tribal community members to share their cultural stories and perspectives.
Glacier National Park is situated between the Blackfeet and Flathead Reservations, and the NAS program is the cornerstone of the park’s tribal community engagement project.
NAS also enriches the experiences of park visitors by allowing them to hear directly from Glacier’s First Peoples about the deep and lasting relationship between Native Peoples and the land we today call Glacier National Park. The program raises important conversations about the history of the park and its importance to Native People. The NAS program shows visitors that there’s more to Glacier than meets the eye as the park’s natural splendor is paired with its deep cultural history and significance.
The NAS program has also expanded to include an Artist in Residence Program, providing opportunities for local tribal artists to work in Glacier and promote Indigenous art and culture.
Ranger-Led Education and Distance Learning
Every year approximately 10,000 students are introduced to Glacier through ranger-led field education programs.
While COVID-19 has temporarily halted in-person field trips, rangers are continuing to introduce the next generation to the park through online learning. During the pandemic rangers reached over 2,000 students through online learning, a 400% increase from the prior year.
Glacier’s educational outreach teaches students about the diversity and importance of the park. Teachers commonly report that Glacier’s education programs help kids learn about the importance of the park and a desire to protect it for future generations. The ranger-led programming consistently receives “exceeds expectations” reviews. One teacher commented, “I can’t thank you enough for all you do to support the schools and teachers. I’ve taken my classes to GNP for many years and it has been a fantastic experience every time. And you continue to improve your lessons each year.”
Glacier’s education outreach also serves as a model for other national parks, and has been shared to over 14 other national parks.
This year Glacier National Park is rising to the challenge of COVID-19 by adapting the park’s education curriculum to a virtual learning environment. This grant will support Glacier’s education outreach, provide training opportunities for staff and allow the purchase of equipment necessary for instruction.
Whitefish Public School Conservation Program
At its core, our mission is to preserve Glacier Park’s natural splendor for generations to come. This grant seeks to both preserve the park and invite the next generation to enjoy the park by creating a conservation internship program with the local Whitefish school system.
A student will work alongside the park’s nursery staff as well as experience other resource management projects in the park during the summer. This will provide an opportunity to immerse a student into real-world programs at Glacier National Park. This project will provide the park an opportunity to create connections with Glacier’s neighboring communities. It’s never too early to start fostering the next generation of conservation leaders.
Fisheries Program Internship
Glacier National Park is defined by its waterways. This grant sponsors a summer internship for a local college student to work with the National Park Service to help keep Glacier’s waters free of contaminants and preserve native fish species. The summer intern would also launch Glacier’s first-ever study of microplastics in its waters.
Glacier Youth Engagement Program
The National Park Service has identified the need to connect children with parks as one of the top five critical issues facing our national parks. From supplying junior ranger booklets to over 20,000 children to supporting improved experiences at the Apgar Nature Center, this grant provides multiple learning opportunities for families and kids on their summer break. This program also funds youth engagement positions that conduct formal children’s programs and activities, maintain a campground children’s lending library, and provide professional development opportunities for local teachers.
Middle School Girls STEAM Camp
Only 30% of science and engineering jobs are held by women, and 2-3% of female high school students plan on careers in engineering or technology. Into this gap steps Glacier’s Girls STEAM camp. The camp provides 12-15 middle school girls a four-night overnight camp focused on science and engineering education in the summer of 2021. Camp participants learn about research and scientific activities taking place in and around Glacier National Park.
Campers will get firsthand experience carrying out scientific experiments by helping the U.S. National Parks Geographic Information Systems program measure the park’s ice features as well as assist in measuring other landscape changes. The camp also includes a “Women in Science Career Fair” that introduces the campers to female scientists working in and around the park.
Glacier National Park’s citizen science program gives visitors the chance to do more than observe the park’s natural beauty. Citizen scientists at Glacier get the chance to gather critical data and conduct firsthand research and surveying for park managers.
While anyone is welcome to participate in Glacier’s citizen science program, it is particularly popular with kids and families visiting the park. Over 200 youth groups participate annually in citizen science programs. The program gives middle school to college students the chance to participate in field studies and help monitor species of particular interest to park management. Past citizen scientists have provided park management with valuable data on the habitats and population numbers of goats, bighorn sheep, pikas, Canada lynx, loons, golden eagles, black swifts, terrestrial and aquatic insects, fungi, and invasive plants to support management decisions.
Most participants begin with an interest in conservation of natural resources, but their passion for protecting wildlife in national parks deepens as they spend time observing wildlife firsthand and learning more about the role of each species in the ecosystem.
This grant will fund staffing to coordinate citizen science projects and analyze the incoming data for use in management decisions made by the park.
Trail and Park Improvements
Print Park Produced Publications
Glacier National Park receives on average over three million visitors annually. Many of these visitors rely on printed park information to guide their stay and keep them safe. While rangers are a great resource for visitors, they can’t be everywhere at once. Glacier National Park distributed around one million printed guides a year, helping visitors find their way safely through the park.
Increasing Ranger Station Staff at Many Glacier
The Many Glacier valley operates essentially like a small town in the summer season, with all National Park Service (NPS) divisions contributing resources toward the greater good. It is through this shared effort that the area can achieve National Park Service goals of high-quality visitor service and safety. The Many Glacier Ranger Station is the focal point for area operations, and this grant will add one seasonal visitor services ranger to provide needed assistance to visitors to the ranger station and support to the rest of the NPS family in the small town that is the Many Glacier Valley.
Ranger Pocket Reference
The Glacier Ranger’s uniform wouldn’t be complete without the Ranger Pocket Reference. Fitting snugly into a breast pocket, the reference is filled with important information from emergency contacts and procedures to natural resources facts. The reference has been helping rangers assign park goers for the past six years. It’s easy access ensures that rangers are equipped to answer a wide range of questions from the public, improving their park experience.
This grant supports minor revisions and updates to the reference and a new print run for 2021.
Employee Health and Wellness
Glacier is a busy place. That’s why it is so critically important to invest in the health and wellness of park staff. This grant continues a successful partnership that invests in expanded equipment for the park’s fitness facility, health screenings to track the impact of the park’s Fitness Challenge program, and expansion of the park’s fitness initiatives.