Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), established in 1915, provides an opportunity for the public to experience the iconic
wildlife, ecosystems, and history of the Rocky Mountains. With elevations ranging from 8,000 ft to 14,259 ft, RMNP
protects vast areas of sensitive alpine tundra and all of the ecosystems along this dramatic elevation gradient.
Already experiencing a 3.4 degree (F) rise in average annual temperatures over the last century, climate change is
projected to have substantial impacts on the wildlife, ecosystems, and natural resources protected by the park.
Uniquely suited for their alpine ecosystems, the American Pika (Ochotona princeps) is considered a sentinel for the ecological
impacts of climate change in RMNP. Recent research has predicted that we may see dramatic declines in the suitable habitat for
pika in RMNP over the century. Developed in 2010 as a response to growing concern about the persistence and status of pika,
the Pikas in Peril program was established to help the National Park Service better prepare and plan for the ecological impacts
of climate change across several National Parks in the Rocky Mountain region. A collaboration between researchers at the
University of Colorado- Boulder, Oregon State University, University of Idaho and the NPS, the program aims to (1) assess the
variables that drive pika distributions, (2) explore the connectivity and gene flow of pika populations, and (3) evaluate the
vulnerability of pika to climate change.
RMNP is partnering with the Front Range Pika project to implement citizen science data collection on pika across the Park to meet
the need for additional data to answer these important questions. Utilizing similar methods developed by the scientists
leading the Pikas in Peril program, the FRPP is engaging citizen scientists in collecting data on the presence and habitat
characteristics at randomly selected rocky talus sites across the park to better assess the factors that drive their distributions
and persistence and to test model predictions. Data collected by volunteers will directly contribute to ongoing research in the
park on the drivers of pika persistence and will be used by RMNP managers to monitor populations in the park.
Volunteers are required to attend the RMNP classroom and field training and then sign up to visit one of the RMNP sites on their own anytime between the trainings and the end of September. Volunteers must be capable of navigating to remote field sites and hiking on talus and other variable terrain at high altitudes for extended periods (2-10 miles). Volunteers must also commit to following all safety guidelines outlined by the project and our permits and must always hike with a partner who is also capable of safely hiking and navigating in the backcountry. Minors much be 12 years of age and accompanied by a parent of guardian.
If you don't meet the requirements to conduct field surveys, but would like to contribute to the project in other ways please contact us.
This opportunity is best for volunteers who live in Grand Lake, Estes Park, or spend a significant amount of time in RMNP during the summer.
Become a RMNP Citizen Scientist
Volunteers will attend one combined classroom and field training held on June 28th from 7am-2:30 pm. Lunch will be provided.
In this training, you will learn about pika ecology and climate change, backcountry safety and navigation, leave-no-trace
principles, the ecological survey methods, and data submission procedures.
2019 Training Dates and Locations
The Classroom and Field training will be combined on June 28th from 7:00am-2:30 pm.
Cannot make trainings
If you cannot make the classroom and field training listed above, please email us or sign up here
to add your name to the list of volunteers who would like to learn about other upcoming trainings and opportunities.
Attend the end of season party to celebrate all of your hard work, to return field equipment and to turn in completed paper datasheets
Steps to Volunteering for Returning Volunteers
If you are a returning FRPP volunteer who has completed a field survey in RMNP using the Protected Area Field Protocol
(that requires the establishment of plots), you do not need to attend a training and can sign up for a field site and
follow the directions below. If you are a returning FRPP volunteer who has not completed a training on the new Protected
Area Field Protocol (that requires the establishment of plots), you will need to attend the RMNP training to participate in this project.
Review the field manual and resources under the Volunteer Manual and Protocol tab
If you would like to review the classroom training powerpoint, please click on this link.
Site Maps and Directions
Please see the link with the site sign up and maps that you receive via email.
Backcountry Navigation Tips
As an FRPP RMNP volunteer, you are responsible for obtaining a GPS unit or GPS phone app for navigation to field sites and must
be completely comfortable navigating on your own. The FRPP has a limited number of GPS units to lend out and
partners with Gaia GPS to provide smartphone app subscriptions for our volunteers.