Proceedings – THE PLACE OF THE PARK NATURALIST IN THE RESEARCH PROGRAM

Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929

 THE RESEARCH PROGRAM IN THE NATIONAL PARKS

THE PLACE OF THE PARK NATURALIST IN THE RESEARCH PROGRAM

By C. Frank Brockman

While it is almost impossible at the present time, it is my opinion that the Park Naturalist should take an active part in the research program of the park in which he is stationed, when the Educational Department has been developed to such an extent that such is possible.

He cannot, of course, be expected to be an authority on all subjects of scientific interest, nor can he be expected to carry on experiments in all branches of science, but he must have some special training that is applicable to the park that will be sufficient to enable him to carry out work in his own line. In addition to that he must have a general understanding of other fields of science that will enable him to appreciate the needs for research along ether lines besides his own and sufficient to enable him to recognize scientific problems and plan for their being carried out by specialists. In short, where he does not find himself equipped to carry out work in a subject, he must. be qualified to recognize the need and, if a specialist is not available for full time, he must be scientifically minded enough to work along lines suggested by some university professor, carrying the problem to its successful completion in that manner. Oftentimes it is not necessary to have a specialist, but a man with a scientifically trained mind is indispensable.

It is my opinion that at least one major technical problem should be undertaken by the Park Naturalist each year, and if such problem requires a greater period or if its continuance cannot be carried out after it has been launched, his time should be devoted to the problem as part of his duties until its completion or until something else can be undertaken.

Such a program is necessary because original observations are the best stimulus to personal endeavor and a development of a fund of knowledge that will command respect among scientific men. Also many of the problems undertaken will have a very definite bearing upon the park administration — as for example, the insect problem, predatory animals, etc.

The Park Naturalists are recruited from colleges and universities. The requirements of the job are clearly defined upon the examination announcement and very rarely does anyone enter this work without the desire to do original work. If this is rendered impossible by the press of detailed duties that do not draw from his original training, or if such

The Park Naturalist should take a very decided, definite part in the research program, for in that way he affiliates himself with science and broadens along that line; he accumulates knowledge of the park from personal study and by working with others; this knowledge can be passed on to ranger naturalists and rangers to be disseminated to the public.

An effort on the part of all Park Naturalists should be made to fit himself to carry on other, and more advanced, projects as they are undertaken. It should be necessary to continue studies along advanced lines for we cannot go ahead and raise the respect of the education division in the minds of the public and scientific men by resting on our ears and relegating ourselves merely as detailed workers who gain information about the region in which we are placed through the writings of others. That is necessary, but a definite research program should be undertaken by every park naturalist — our knowledge of conditions and park features (from a first hand point of view) is the soundest kind of a foundation upon which to build the superstructure of the educational work in the national parks.

Discussion

It was recognized that, under the present circumstances, the research program which may be carried on by park naturalists may be extremely limited due to lack of personnel sufficient to handle current administrative problems. It was recognized as necessary, however, that the naturalist enter into some research activity; the extent to which this can be accomplished will depend, of course, upon the existing circumstances.

It was agreed by all present that the desirability for some research by the individual Park Naturalists be recognized by the Director and that as soon as possible provision be made for such activities as a part of the naturalists regular program of work.

 

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