Discover Denali Research Fellowships
Discover Denali Research Fellowships support study in Denali National Park and Preserve by funding research that fills gaps in the ecological or cultural understanding of park resources and/or provides data needed by the Park to make informed management decisions. The fellowship is funded with proceeds from Discover Denali, a program that introduces guests to Denali’s natural history. Discover Denali is offered by Denali Education Center in partnership with the Murie Science and Learning Center and the Park.
Applications and information for 2014 fellowships will be available in the fall. Funding requests up to $8000 are considered. Learn more about the application process.
2014 Discover Denali Research Fellowship Recipients
Three research fellows conducted studies in Denali in 2014 with Discover Denali Research Fellowship funds. Funding research will help the National Park Service learn more about park resources and create the next generation of conservation scientists.
Measuring the Biotic Integrity of Eldorado Creek
Robin Henderson, Washington State University (Ph.D. student)
Robin Henderson’s research will help determine if stream restoration improves the biotic integrity of Eldorado Creek. This creek, located in the Kantishna Hills region of Denali, has been affected by extensive aquatic, riparian, and upland mining-related impacts. The stream is being restored to more natural flow patterns in 2014. Henderson will collect aquatic macroinvertebrates, including the larvae of mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies, which live under rocks and in stream beds, and use them as indicators of the ecological health of the creek. These macroinvertebrates serve well as biological indicators because they integrate the effects of post-mining contaminants overtime, are ubiquitous as well as diverse, have a well-known taxonomy, are easy to collect, have well-matched life cycles in relation to the time scales associated with many stressors, and are important in key ecosystem processes. Robin will collect macroinvertebrates in several reference upstream portions or “reaches” of Eldorado Creek before channel realignment in 2014.
Following identification of the benthic macroinvertebrates, she’ll use a biotic index (observed number of species compared to expected number of species) as an estimate of the stream’s ecological integrity. Beginning in 2015, after stream restoration, she and others will resample the reference reaches, in addition to the newly aligned stream channel, to determine whether the restoration improved the biotic integrity of Eldorado Creek.
Robin is a Ph.D. student in the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences at Washington State University, Tri-Cities.
Tracking Denali’s Avian Migrants
Alaska Geographic and Discover Denali 2014 Research Fellowships
Scott Weidensaul, Pennsylvania-based writer and researcher
Birds that nest in Alaska migrate to the 49th state each year from Africa, Asia, the Pacific islands, and South America. Scott Weidensaul and his collaborators will use the funding to jump start a large project, which will document the details of these incredible migrations, provide Alaska park managers with the information they need to preserve these long-distance travelers, and create an online migration atlas to allow the public to follow new discoveries about migratory birds in Alaska’s national parks.
The first stage of this project will focus on two migrant songbirds that nest in Denali: Arctic warblers and Wilson’s warblers. Denali’s Arctic warblers winter in unknown locations in southeast Asia. These small songbirds appear to be responding to climate-related plant community change by moving into higher elevations in the park. Wilson’s warblers, which winter in Mexico and Central America, are one of the Denali’s most common birds, but, since 1998, have declined in the park by 48 percent. Scott Weidensaul and his collaborators will learn the year-round movements of these birds by tagging 30 individuals of each species using tiny geolocators.The researchers will also collect information on the birds’ nesting ecology and success, and take blood samples for genetic and contaminant tests. The fellowship funding in 2014 will purchase geolocators.
Weidensaul is a writer and researcher based in Pennsylvania, who has been studying bird migration for more than 20 years, including tracking snowy owl movements with GPS transmitters (Project SNOWstorm). His collaborators for this project are Dr.Iain Stenhouse (expert on new tracking devices from the Biodiversity Research Institute in Gorham, Maine); Dr. Carol McIntyre (ornithologist with 30 years of experience with migratory birds in Denali); and Laura Philips (ecologist and seabird and shorebird expert at Kenai Fjords National Park).
Hydrology of Toklat and other upwelling areas
Michael Grocott, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
Michael’s research focuses on understanding the water source and flow pathway dynamics of groundwater-fed streams that originate on floodplain terraces of glacierised catchments. These systems act as significant hotspots for biological and biogeochemical activity. He will use hydrochemical and stable isotope data collected from study sites in Denali National Park, Alaska, during 2013 and 2014 to determine how water source and flow pathway dynamics vary both spatially and temporally. The understanding gained from these site specific studies will then be applied to consider how future climate changes may impact the water dynamics of these systems globally.