On-line Book

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Research and Education
in the National Parks




Part I

Part II


National Park Service
Research and Education in the National Parks
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The use of the national park domain as field laboratories began many years ago when a few universities conducted field courses into the wilderness areas which later became national parks. As early as 1899 Prof. Rollin D. Salisbury escorted University of Chicago geological classes into what afterwards became Glacier National Park. Drs. Thomas C. Chamberlin, Wallace W. Atwood, and J. Paul Goode followed his example. Harvard University classes visited Grand Canyon under the guidance of Prof. William Morris Davis. Dr. Douglas W. Johnson took Columbia University classes into several national parks. In this manner a dozen universities might be listed that took advantage of the exceptional opportunity to study science in the Nation's parks.

Shortly after the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916 the germ of the educational idea came into being. As first director of the National Park Service, Stephen T. Mather early launched his plans for the development of an educational program. In 1917 Robert Sterling Yard was appointed as chief of the educational division. Additional information circulars were prepared and a beautifully illustrated National Parks Portfolio was issued. These publications contained material of particular educational value and were enthusiastically welcomed by park visitors.

In the field John Muir, of the Sierra Club, had attracted interest to national parks and stimulated in many persons a desire to study the geologic and biologic features of these areas. Enos Mills, in Rocky Mountain National Park, had developed nature guiding and had written articles describing methods used. Many others interested in the out-of-doors also had a part in drawing attention to the desirability of field studies conducted in the open.

In June of 1918, realizing the growing importance of national parks as field laboratories for educational institutions, a National Park Educational Committee was organized by Dr. Charles D. Walcott, of the Smithsonian Institution. This committee, numbering about 75 members, was composed of university presidents and representatives of leading conservation organizations throughout the country. By May of 1919 this committee merged into the National Parks Association and Mr. Yard left the Park Service to become associated with this new organization.

Glacier NP
FIGURE 34.—Magnificent mountain scenery in the wilderness of Glacier National Park, On foot or on horseback the traveler may wander over the trails which lead to the beauty spots of the park.

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