Since its founding in 1938, Western National Parks Association (WNPA) has funded scientific, historical, and social science research in national parks to help advance their management, preservation, and interpretation. Conducting a meaningful, scientific inquiry is only the beginning of WNPA-funded research. One of our key goals is interpretation—turning research findings into relevant, engaging narratives that both inform and entertain park visitors.

To ensure that this goal is met, we require our applicants to work closely with both the chief of interpretation and the superintendent for the park where the research will be conducted. WNPA’s Research Committee will look most favorably upon applications that include a plan for interpretation-related products of research. These products might include workshops, posters, presentations, maps, guidebooks, fact sheets, or educational materials that can be displayed at the park.

WNPA supports research in all fields of scholarly research, including anthropology, archaeology, botany, citizen science, ecology, geology, history, natural history, social science, and zoology. The following are research proposals that provide an insight as to what constitutes a solid proposal:

FY 2019 Proposals

Bandelier National Monument proposal
Excellent progress made in the project’s first year and the urgency of the situation.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park proposal
This project is important to the park and addresses an urgent need.

Saguaro National Park proposal
This project will result in critically needed long-term data.

FY 2018 Proposals

Bandelier National Monument proposal

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument proposal

El Malpais National Monument proposal

A vital part of your research is sharing it with others. It is, quite possibly, the most significant way that you as a researcher can help protect further research opportunities at other national parks across the country. Your contributions can help park staff make informed, science-based decisions to protect and preserve park resources. Sharing your research in an engaging way encourages others to make lasting, meaningful connections to the park and the resources it shelters. By doing this, you help others see the value and importance of preserving our natural and cultural resources.


Many Audiences to Reach

There is a wide variety of audiences with whom you can share your research—visitors to the park, staff members, teachers, members of the community, children, and students of all ages. By sharing your purpose (research question), what you’ve done (methods) and discovered (data and discussion), and what the big take away message is (implications for the park), you can spread your knowledge to countless people.


How to Share Your Research

Here are a few ideas on how to share your research—but use your creativity, too. This is by no means a complete list. Decide on your target audience(s), then choose a means of presentation that will best reach them.

Remember—your research is more likely to reach and engage your audience if

  • you include anecdotes and interesting stories from your research.
  • there is some level of participation; many people learn better by doing.
  • you keep science terms and jargon to a minimum—explain in everyday language.


Ideas for Sharing Your Research Project

1. Research assistants or shadows

  • Enlist a visitor, volunteer, teacher, or student to assist and/or shadow your field study.

2. NPS park website and/or WNPA website

  • Pinnacles National Park posted some of their research data regarding the California condors and lead poisoning on the NPS website for all visitors to see.

3. Social media

  • Create a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account to highlight and document your research work. This could also include a blog that features the principals involved in the project and the focus of the research. Most importantly, tell the national parks’ stories.

4. Lecture or workshop presentation

  • Give a 30- to 40-minute talk about your research experience, or over a one-day workshop.
  • Pinnacles National Park research was presented at three scientific conferences.
  • Condor presentations were updated based on research from the Pinnacles National Park project to include information on how chronic exposure to lead threatens the species.

5. Fact sheet

  • Prepare key topic headings, around 900 words of text, and interesting, high-res images. Collaborate with park staff to create a fact sheet summarizing your research and results.

6. Journal article

  • Write an article aimed at lay people (not fellow scientists) and look for relevant journals or news outlets that may publish it.
  • Pinnacles National Park created a manuscript of their research and submitted it to the Journal of Comparative Physiology.

7. PowerPoint Presentation

  • Create a PowerPoint presentation (self-contained and self-explanatory, not a guided presentation) for display on a monitor so visitors can view it at their own pace. Spark more interest by having a relevant, hands-on item (ie, a feather) nearby.

8. Poster

  • Craft a poster (ideally 3’ x 4’) that is visually captivating and not a poster for a science meeting. Include the large concepts and key points about the “why” of your research. Emphasize images, graphics, and use a large font for easy readability.

9. Discovery packet for visitors or students

  • Collaborate with park staff to create a packet of instructions and equipment to carry out a small-scale version of your research. Include background information about your research project. Park staff can use these packets to guide visitors in doing the research that you do.

10. Classroom data analysis activity

  • Provide a dataset along with background information and photos of your research, as well as guiding research questions. Work with park staff to create an educational packet that middle and high school teachers can use in their classrooms to teach students how to analyze and interpret real-world research data.

11. Activity for field trip or classroom

  • Collaborate with park staff to make a fun, educational, hands-on learning experience, such as a product or game, that students can use to enhance learning on field trips or in the classroom.

12. High-tech product or session

  • Make an educational product or experience with new technology: record a podcast, hold a Skype call with a classroom of students, or film a virtual tour of your research area to share online.