Help Glacier Park track loons, goats and weeds

from NPS Glacier National Park

Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center Opportunities
Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center Opportunities

The Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center at Glacier National Park will continue its Citizen Science Program this summer, offering free research and learning opportunities for the public.

The program trains individuals to identify, observe, and record information on mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pikas, aquatic insects, loons, and invasive plants in Glacier National Park. These species have been targeted because of their sensitivity to changes in habitat, human disturbances and, in the case of invasive plants, their threat to native biodiversity. Participants are asked to attend a one-day training session before collecting data for a project.

Common Loon Citizen Science

Gather information on the distribution and reproduction of common loons to understand more about population trends and nesting success. Glacier National Park is home to about 20% of Montana’s breeding Common Loons. Monitoring takes place May through September.  Training Date: May 22, June 18, June 26, or July 9

High Country Citizen Science

Observe mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pikas, and aquatic insects at selected sites to assist with population and distribution estimates. These species are habitat and temperature sensitive and may be affected by climate change. Monitoring takes place June through October.  Training Dates: June 12, June 19, or July 2

Invasive Plant Citizen Science
Learn to identify five targeted invasive plants and use GPS units to map their locations while hiking along trails in Glacier National Park. Monitoring takes place June through September. Interested invasive plant citizen science participants can be trained in one of two ways:
1. Complete online training session at
2. Attend annual weed blitz on Tuesday, July 21. Participants will assist Glacier National Park by pulling targeted weeds.


Additional training sessions for any of the programs may be scheduled based on interest.

Since 2005, the Glacier National Park Citizen Science Program has utilized trained citizen scientists to collect baseline population data on species of interest within the park. Training is provided to participants to inform them of threats to native plants and wildlife that may result from human disturbance, climate change, and invasive species. Perhaps most importantly, the Citizen Science Program helps create an informed group of visitors involved in active stewardship of Glacier National Park.

Please contact the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center at 406-888-7986 to register for training or for more information, or visit

This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the park while providing a valued service. Since our parks our underfunded, help is always needed, and this program gives people a chance to get involved, get hands-on  experience and get the summer of a lifetime.


SunSinger4coverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of The Sun Singer, a contemporary fantasy adventure novel set in Glacier National Park.

Campbell is a former Many Glacier Hotel bellman.


Review: ‘The Best of Glacier National Park,’ by Alan Leftridge

The Best of Glacier National Park, by Alan Leftridge, Farcountry Press (April 30, 2013), 136 pages, photographs, maps, resources

BoGlacier cover flat r1.indd“We’re here! What should we do, what is there to see?” In the preface to his practical and well-illustrated Glacier National Park guidebook, Alan Leftridge writes that as a park ranger, he often heard those questions from excited visitors who “wanted to start making memories.”

Many of Glacier’s two million annual visitors travel a long way to reach northwestern Montana, and when they arrive, they are not only in awe of the scenery but of the scope of the prospective activities that await them in a 1,012,837-acre preserve with 762 lakes and 745.6 miles of trails. While Glacier is best experienced without hurry or stress, the economics of vacation travel make it necessary for visitors to maximize their time in the park.

The Best of Glacier National Park highlights, as Leftridge puts it, the park’s “iconic features.” The book begins with an overview of park facts, geology, and cultural history. This is followed by twenty-six “best of” chapters describing everything from scenic drives, picnic areas and nature trails to wild flowers, birds and photography opportunities.

Each chapter includes a map, color photographs and clearly marked headings and subheadings that make the information easy to find. This book is meant to be used as a quick and easy reference whether you are stopped at an overlook on the Going-to-the-Sun Road or standing in a subalpine fir forest on the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail. The hiking sections, which are broken down into nature trails, day hikes and backpack trips, include directions and special features you’ll want to see and photograph.

Glacier’s rangers, naturalists, boat crews and saddle tour operators are probably asked more questions about the park’s flora and fauna than anything else. The “Best Wildlife” chapter includes a mammal checklist and tells you where to find marmots, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, moose and bears. The book includes appropriate warnings about Grizzly bears, suggesting that they be observed at a distance. “Best Birds” highlights ospreys, eagles and ptarmigans, among others.

Naturally, “Best Wildflowers” begins with beargrass. Leftridge notes that “It is a myth that bears rely on this lily to satisfy their diet. If you see beargrass’ tall stalks with missing flower heads, know that other animals, including rodents, elk and bighorn sheep, nibbled here.”

According to the National Park Service, there are 1,400 plant species in Glacier. While “best” is a subjective term, this guidebook focuses on such popular and showy wildflowers as the Glacier Lily, Indian Paintbrush, Lupine and other visitor favorites.

Naturalist John Muir said Glacier National Park includes the “the best care-killing scenery on the continent” and suggested that visitors  “Give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead…it will make you truly immortal.”

Whether you have a month, a week or a only few days for the high country known as the Crown of the Continent, The Best of Glacier National Park is an excellent all-purpose, general guidebook for discovering everything to do and see when faced with thirty-seven named glaciers, 175 mountains, and 151 maintained trails of waiting memories.


TSScover2014A former Many Glacier Hotel summer employee, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of nonfiction and fiction with a Glacier Park focus, including Bears; Where They Fought: Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley and three contemporary fantasy novels set in the park, “Sarabande,” “The Seeker” and “The Sun Singer.”

Glacier Centennial: George Bird Grinnell

“Far away in Montana, hidden from view by clustering mountain-peaks, lies an unmapped northwestern corner- the Crown of the Continent. The water from the crusted snowdrift which caps the peak of a lofty mountain there trickles into tiny rills, which hurry along north, south, east and west, and growing to rivers, at last pour their currents into three seas. From this mountain-peak the Pacific and the Arctic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico receive each its tribute. Here is a land of striking scenery.” — George Bird Grinnell, “The Crown of the Continent” in The Century Magazine, 1901

Fish and Wilflife Service Archive Photo
Dr. George Bird Grinnell (1849 – 1938) was a hunter, anthropologist, naturalist, publisher, Audubon Society founder, and Indian rights advocate who has been called the Father of Glacier National Park and the Father of American Conservation. While he specialized in studies of the plains Indians, visitors to Glacier National Park during this centennial year will hear of his association with the Crown of the Continent and will see his name linked to a lake, mountain, point and glacier in the Swiftcurrent Valley.

When George was seven, the Grinnell family moved into Manhattan’s Audubon Park neighborhood, the estate of John James Audubon (1785-1851) managed by the ornithologist’s widow Lucy. George was fascinated by the specimens of birds stored in the barn and was lucky enough to become one of the children tutored by Madam Audubon.

In his 1939 tribute to Grinnell in “The Auk – A Quarterly Journal of Ornithology,” Albert Fisher wrote that “Madam Audubon gave Grinnell his first conscious lesson about birds. One of his early recollections was being called from the breakfast table one morning to look at a large flock of Passenger Pigeons that was feeding in a dogwood tree twenty-five or thirty feet from the house. There were so many of the birds that all could not alight in it, and many kept fluttering about while others fed on the ground, eating berries knocked off by those above.”

Speculating about the workings of fortune and fate, one can only wonder how the future of conservation and Montana’s Rocky Mountains were impacted by the pivotal moment encompassed by pigeons and a dogwood.

Also pivotal in Grinnell’s life were his volunteer experiences at 21 on a paleontology expedition to Nebraska. In his 2004 article in Bugle Magazine “George Bird Grinnell: The Father of American Conservation,” Shane Mahoney wrote: “His writings from this time also reflect his deep love of the hunt and his capacity to appreciate the sheer beauty and grandeur of wild and unspoiled lands. His memories of fireside gatherings after a vigorous day afield are testimony to his love of the land and the cultures of men who made it their obsession and home. While his keen scientific eye was always turned to gathering new insights, his soul and heart were expanding in the western frontier, beginning to form in him a fevered commitment to the preservation of wildlife and the hunt.”

Grinnell served as a naturalist on an 1874 Black Hills expedition led by General Custer and on an 1875 expedition to Yellowstone. He found himself drawn west not only as a hunter of big game, but as a man impressed by the natural wonders he saw and by the lives and stories of the Pawnee, Blackfeet and other tribes he encountered and befriended. President Grover Cleveland would later appoint Grinnell as a commissioner to liaison with the Blackfeet and the Belknap Indians.

Grinnell’s articles about his experiences began appearing in “Forest and Stream,” a magazine he would later edit and then publish. He wrote not only of hunting but of the need to curtail the wholesale slaughter of animals for market purposes. His report of conditions in Yellowstone showed that game and timber were being stolen away by commercial interests.

As Mahoney noted, “Grinnell returned from the [Yellowstone] expedition determined to provide better protection for the park and to set before the American people a platform of discussion regarding just what a national park should represent. In so doing he was to lay the foundation for the national park system we have today.”

Century Magazine Sketch
Grinnell coined the phrase “Crown of the Continent” in his 1901 article in The Century Magazine. He included a sketch of the area that would ultimately bear a very close resemblance to the park that would be created nine years later. Luckily, the geologists and promoters who swarmed through mountains seeking gold, copper and oil found no viable deposits.

While Grinnell, with his high-level contacts and his reputation as an advocate for conservation, had been pushing for protected status for the Montana mountains for almost 20 years, he would say later that the Great Northern Railroad deserved most of the credit. Taking little or no credit for his accomplishments was a long-time Grinnell attitude that, even now, causes him to be overlooked in many assessments of early conservation activities.

At the time, Grinnell spoke to “Empire Builder” James J. Hill of the Great Northern about the benefits of a park. Hill, whose views leaned more toward the kind of playground the railroad might develop there than toward conservation, pressured Montana’s Congressional delegation to support the park. Ultimately, the legislation passed with little debate, and President Taft signed the legislation in May, 1910.

According to historian C. W. Buchholtz in Man in Glacier, George Bird Grinnell wrote that “the people of the Great Northern were entirely responsible for the creation of Glacier. In 1929, Grinnell stated: ‘Important men in control of the Great Northern Rail road were made to see the possibilities of the region and after nearly twenty years of effort, a bill setting aside the park was passed.'” In the years that followed, Grinnell would wonder if Glacier Park was truly safe, for he saw more commercialization there than he thought was proper.

Without the railroad as the final powerful catalyst, Glacier National Park might never have been created; the railroad saw a tourist destination where the natural resources could be managed and used. Grinnell had greater vision, one developed over the long term and one that has sustained us well for the last 100 years.

Copyright (c) 2010 by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of “The Sun Singer,” a mythic adventure novel set in Glacier National Park.

Each purchase benefits Glacier National Park