Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929
THE RESEARCH PROGRAM IN THE NATIONAL PARKS
IMPORTANCE OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IN THE NATIONAL PARKS
By Geo. C. Ruhle
Definition: – Research embodies the careful and critical inquiry or examination in seeking facts and principles. It employs a systematic investigation by means of experimental methods, augmented with generalizations, laws, and hypotheses to discover new facts, and to correlate them with other facts.
The General (Direct) Value of Research: – The part played by research in the development of science and industry is common knowledge to mankind. Large industrial enterprises have been developed by it as frequently as by the labors of organizing departments. The recognition of the national essentiality of science is practically unanimous.
The Importance of Research to the Educational Program in a National Park: – Granting the general importance of research, since no argument should be necessary as to its utility in increasing production, eliminating disease, or enhancing comfort and security, does or can research play a vital part in the Educational Development of a National Park? Is it an Educational Asset? Yes. Conservation and Development being considered as the first two purposes of our national parks, the third purpose is their maximum utilization along appropriate lines. No argument should be necessary for the use of our parks in the cause of advancing knowledge, especially since the wonderful possibilities of scientific discovery are so manifest everywhere. It is a cardinal purpose to supplement the recreational utility of these pleasure areas with higher investigations of a type by which our mastery over nature is derived. A wholly materialistic gain for the parks through research is prestige and decorous advertisement. Without basic in formation supplied by research, intelligent procedure along any line is impossible.
What is the Importance of Research to the Park Naturalist: — Chiefly through the training received and the mental attitude developed. It is obvious that one works with a great handicap if one conducts activities along emperical lines without the advantages which the scientific method entails. Research is extremely valuable as an intellectual stimulus, developing an ability to think clearly and independently, to analyze complicated problems, and put factors in their proper relationship and value. It prevents mental stagnation by its induciveness to creative thought, by eliminating passive acceptance. It fosters a sense of obligation, mental alertness, self-reliance, a responsibility of taking part in investigation of unsolved problems, an answered challenge. It keeps the mind fresh by contact with superior brains, either directly or through current literature.
Pure vs applied research: – Even great business corporations with research programs are beginning to recognize the promotion of pure science as a sound business policy. The goal of research is discovery of all truth. Research is valuable whether capable of immediate application or not. The smallest discovery may lead to unexpected and far reaching results, as has often been proven, In our national parks, both pure and applied research should not be found wanting.