National Park Service Research Learning Centers

The National Park Service has developed Research Learning Centers through the Natural Resource Challenge as public-private partnerships that encourage the sharing of scientific information about the parks, facilitate research efforts, and provide opportunities for the public to learn about the national parks. Research Learning Centers have field stations for collaborative research activities; some provide researchers with laboratory, office, and dormitory facilities.

Beds for visiting scientists are one of the keys to ensuring that they are willing and able to come to parks to do research. Most visiting researchers cannot afford the high temporary housing costs found near today’s premier parks, and camping in a tent for several weeks has limitations when fieldwork involves long hours, bad weather, and strenuous physical activity. A room with shared kitchen facilities allows a researcher to have a dry place in which to write up his or her notes, eat, and get a good night’s sleep before going out to do it all over again. The rustic “field station” environment also fosters information exchange with other scientists and park staff.

However, not all parks are yet fortunate enough to be able to provide physical Research Learning Center facilities of this sort. Yellowstone National Park, for instance, has only limited laboratory and dormitory space available on an intermittent basis. It does, however, operate a state-of-the-art facility for investigators conducting museum, library, and archival research; the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center (HRC) contains more than 5 million objects and documents chronicling the park’s natural and human history. The HRC offers researchers a spacious, comfortable workspace as well as a knowledgeable, helpful staff.

In Grand Teton National Park, the AMK Ranch, operated as the University of Wyoming–National Park Service Research Center, promotes excellence in research by furnishing housing, laboratory space, transportation, equipment and financial support to enable investigators in the biological, physical, and social sciences to access the rich and diverse environments of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, Bridger-Teton and Targhee National Forests, and the Gros Vente and Teton Wilderness Areas. Since its inception in 1946, the Research Station has supported more than 400 research projects that have resulted in well over 500 peer-reviewed scientific publications regarding the applied and basic biological and physical science of Grand Teton National Park and the other parks of the Rocky Mountain region.

The Bighorn Canyon Research Center at Ewing-Snell Historic Ranch is in the heart of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. This four-season, 1,300-square-foot facility includes dormitory space for visiting researchers (with full kitchen, bath, and dining area), office space, and a conference room. This historic ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places, borders the 33,000-acre Pryor Mountain National Wild Horse Range (BLM, NPS, and USFS), and is next to the Pretty Creek Archeological Site (also on the National Register of Historic Places), making it ideal for research access to study sites.