National Park Service Workshop

NPS DiagramThe National Park Service has contracted IAN to assist with effective communication of the results of their Inventory and Monitoring program for 11 National Capital Region (NCR) parks with the use of conceptual diagrams. On May 5-6, 2005, IAN organized a workshop to provide National Park Service (NPS) resource managers with an understanding of how conceptual diagrams can be constructed and used to communicate complex ecological principles and scientific results. This process will lead to a framework for reporting the relative condition of NCR vital signs within the parks, and a preliminary assessment or 'report card' using the proposed framework.

Creating a framework for reporting ecological conditions

NPS NewsletterA new science newsletter created for the National Capital Region Network (NCRN) of the National Park Service is now available on the IAN website. This newsletter is the product of the May 2005 Vital Signs workshop, with participants from each of the 11 National Parks within the NCRN. Knowing the condition of natural resources in the National Parks is critical to conserving the parks unimpaired for the enjoyment of this and future generations. The National Park Service (NPS) is implementing a series of programs designed to provide a stronger scientific basis for management actions. The Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) program was initiated in 1990 to help fulfill this mission. The intent of NPS monitoring is to track a subset of resources and processes, known as “Vital Signs,” that represent overall ecological health, known or hypothesized stressors, and natural elements of important human value. The information obtained through Vital Signs monitoring will have applications for management decision-making, research, education and promoting public understanding of NPS natural resources.

Research Opportunity in Environmental Science

NPS DiagramA graduate student fellowship is available to work in a cooperative research program established between the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and National Park Service (NPS). The purpose of this partnership is to enhance the integration of ecological data into environmental decision making. The successful applicant will synthesize park-based monitoring data, which include air, water, and biological resources, for the purpose of communicating trends or thresholds for ecological indicators (“vital signs”). One anticipated outcome of the fellowship will be to highlight the ecological value and regional context of National Parks within an urbanized setting. The student will have substantial interaction with statisticians, landscape ecologists, and science integrators/communicators collaborating on the project. The student will be based at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, ( and will be enrolled through the Marine Estuarine and Environmental Studies ( program of the University System of Maryland. Travel to National Capital Region parks and the NPS Center for Urban Ecology ( is also expected. The fellowship will cover stipend, tuition, travel and supplies. For more information contact Bill Dennison or Tim Carruthers (

A Conceptual Basis for Natural Resource Monitoring

NCRN Booklet ThumbnailA 34 pp. booklet has been published by the IAN/National Park Service partnership focusing on developing an integrated assessment of the national parks in the region around Washington, D.C. All 11 parks of the National Park Service’s National Capital Region Network have shared resources, and nearly all the parks lie within the Potomac River watershed, which is experiencing some of the most rapid population growth and urban development in the country. The just-released report, "A Conceptual Basis for Natural Resource Monitoring", uses park-based conceptual diagrams to provide a geographic and spatial context for defining the natural resource challenges to the region as a whole and to the individual parks. This is the latest IAN publication for the National Capital Region Vital Signs project.

National Park Service Showcase for Science

NCRN PosterThe partnership between IAN and the Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) program in the National Capital Region Network of national parks sponsored a Showcase for Science. The two day workshop was held Oct 26-27 at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The first day, attended by park resource managers, highlighted a 12-posters series describing park-based monitoring activities and proposed management thresholds for a subset of network vital signs or ecological indicators. The second day included a discussion with park superintendents on how the inventory and monitoring information can be best incorporated into park planning and management activities.

National Capital Region Network poster series

NPS PosterThis poster series outlines the work of the National Capital Region Network's (NCRN) Inventory and Monitoring Program. The program's role is to monitor the status and trends of the parks, their vital signs and development pressures. Park vital signs monitoring is designed to inform managers of the condition of water, air, plants and animals, and the various ecological, biological, and physical processes that act on those resources. These site-specific data will provide parks the information needed for ecologically sound management of the natural resources.

An eye-opening approach to developing and communicating integrated environmental assessments

Paper first pageIAN staff Bill Dennison, Tim Carruthers, and Jane Hawkey worked with UMCES faculty Todd Lookingbill and Shawn Carter from the National Park Service to write this recently published paper (Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5(6): 307-314). The paper presents a practical framework for promoting successful ecosystem management by using diverse visual elements to facilitate communication between scientists, managers, and the public. The paper concludes that: 1) the process of developing and communicating integrated ecosystem assessments creates common ground between multiple stakeholders and is as important as the products themselves; 2) once generated, visual elements (photos, maps, graphs, conceptual diagrams) create a valuable resource that can be used in many formats; 3) visual elements are a widely understandable format for synthesized information; and 4) conceptual diagrams are a powerful tool that can be used to link key ecosystem features, major threats, and environmental indicators.

The challenge of communicating monitoring results to effect change

nps synthesis conceptual diagramThe National Park Service now has a strong ecological perspective as a basis to natural resource management. This article discusses a visual and web based approach to synthesizing and communicating monitoring data that is currently being undertaken by staff from NPS Inventory and Monitoring in the National Capital Region in collaboration with UMCES faculty and staff from IAN. The article appears as Carter et al. 2007. The George Wright Forum 24:48-58

Watershed condition assessment for Rock Creek Park

stream habitat, metrics and thresholdsAs part of the ongoing collaboration between IAN and Inventory and Monitoring at the National Capital Region Network of the National Parks Service, IAN staff presented the Watershed Condition Assessment for Rock Creek National Park. This presentation was one of four demonstration projects at the Water Resource Division aquatic professionals meeting in Fort Collins, Colorado, as part of continuing efforts to develop recommendations for carrying out these assessments across the US.

Integrating Science with Park Management Decisions Workshop

Chattanooga Choo ChooA National Park Service Workshop was held at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, a hotel/conference center in the converted railroad station in Chattanooga, Tennessee in June. The workshop was entitled "Integrating Science with Park Management Decisions" and included discussions between park superintendents, resource managers and scientists from the Inventory and Monitoring Program. Issues included science communication, barriers to effectiveness, thresholds, web tools, printed products, and assessment approaches. Bill Dennison and Shawn Carter presented the approach being developed in the National Capital Region Network parks and facilitated a session in which managers and scientists identified issues and proposed activities to enhance collaborations. This workshop continued to build on the strong partnership developed between the Integration and Application Network with the Inventory and Monitoring Program of the National Park Service.

NCRN Vital Signs Data Portal

NCRN Data PortalThe National Capital Region Network (NCRN) of the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) program has identified 22 indicators of ecological condition within the National Capital Region (NCR), which are commonly called vital signs. Together with the I&M program, IAN developed the NCRN Vital Signs Data Portal to provide access to vital signs data through a graphically oriented interface. Users can query data via vital sign, national park, or ecological system and they can view the data through dynamically generated tables, graphs, maps, and excel downloads as well as gain access to a variety of photos from the parks. The website includes an interactive website tour to give users a detailed overview of the available features.

Completion of 11 Natural Resource Condition Assessments for the National Capital Region Network

Natural Resource Condition Assessment for National Capital Parks-EastMarking a significant milestone in our ongoing partnership with the National Park Service National Capital Region Network (NCRN), IAN has completed Natural Resource Condition Assessments for the 11 NCRN park units in Virginia, Maryland, and District of Columbia. Natural Resource Condition Assessments evaluate and report on the natural resources within a park, and aim to provide science-based information to assist park managers in ongoing resource planning and decision-making. This partnership began in 2005, focusing on the communication of natural resources in the National Parks, and has evolved and continues to grow today. All completed NRCAs and accompanying products are available on IAN Press.