Meadow researchers will use grant for feasibility study

Staff reportMarch 9, 2014 

Researchers working at Mount Rainier and North Cascades national parks have received a grant from NASA’s Applied Sciences division to study how data with satellite imagery can help forecast dates of snow melt and peak flower bloom.

Last summer, 48 volunteers participated in a new citizen science program called “MeadoWatch,” collecting about 17,000 data points on the timing of flowering plants at Paradise at Mount Rainier.

This winter, the program’s coordinators, Janneke Hille Ris Lambers and Jessica Lundquist at the University of Washington and Regina Rochefort at North Cascades National Park, received the grant.

Such information would help park managers set spring schedules, including plowing, facility opening, trail maintenance and the timing of meadow restoration. It also would help park visitors to plan the timing of sightseeing and backcountry hiking.

Researchers also would be able to use these forecast models to project future impacts from climate change, including the effects on plant communities and wildlife activity. Community groups such as the Mountaineers and Washington Trails Association could benefit from such information.

The grant will fund a one-year feasibility study, which could be followed by three years of additional funding if the first year produces promising results, according to a news release.

Over the next year, with the help of NASA funding, the UW researchers will develop and validate models for forecasting snow disappearance and wildflower phenology (the dates of budding, flowering and setting seed), using NASA satellite imagery, climate station data, remote microclimate sensors, MeadoWatch data, crowd-sourced photography and previous research.

If these efforts are successful, the next step will be to refine the models and develop methods of automating them through remote sensing.

Meanwhile, volunteers continue to be a key component of the research. This summer, MeadoWatch volunteers will return to the Paradise trails to watch and document the flowers as they bud, bloom and set seeds.

If you’d like to participate in the MeadoWatch program, visit the project website at https://sites.google.com/a/uw.edu/meadowatch, or contact Anna Wilson, MeadoWatch coordinator, at mwatch@uw.edu.

CHANGES AT FORT VANCOUVER

The National Park Service has authorized funding to rehabilitate the existing 5,650-square-foot visitor center completed at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in 1962, the service announced Tuesday.

The work will be confined to the existing footprint of the building and will address essential upgrades to protect the health and safety of visitors. It also will improve efficiency of space while improving the appearance of the structure to make it more readily identifiable by the public as a public facility, said a park news release.

Some of the work that will be completed:

• Replacement of antiquated mechanical and electrical distribution systems to save energy and meet current building codes.

• Installation of a fire suppression system to protect the historical structure and improve visitor safety.

• Replacement of outdated exhibits with more relevant and accessible ones that address the important history of Fort Vancouver National Historical Site and the Vancouver National Historic Reserve.

• Upgraded restrooms for accessibility compliance and improved security.

• Redesign the interior floor plan to include expanded theater and public orientation spaces to meet increased demand of larger groups visiting the site, such as school groups, group tours and the general public.

“This rehabilitation will ensure that our public spaces — including the theater, exhibit space, and restrooms — are safe, efficient, accessible and adequately sized for the public,” Superintendent Tracy Fortmann said in a news release.

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