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Jami Belt
University of Montana | Major Professor: Paul Krausman

I grew up near the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio and went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio to pursue a career in wildlife/ human behavioral research. My degree in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in biological sciences and neuroscience (B.A., 1997, Miami University, Ohio) emphasized the importance of educating people as a means of enhancing biodiversity through preservation of habitat. After graduating I moved to Montana and in 1999, began studying the diverse natural resources of the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, and sharing that knowledge as the Program Director for the Glacier Institute. I worked with wildlife biologists and ecologists who inspired me to return full circle to my original goal to be actively engaged in research, but also encouraged me to continue to educate people about this vital ecosystem. In 2006 I began working for Glacier National Park's Research Learning Center, as the Citizen Science Program Coordinator. I was accepted to the University of Montana's Wildlife Biology program as a Boone and Crockett Fellow in April 2008 and began my graduate research in June 2008. After completion of my master's degree I plan to further my career in wildlife research and conservation.

Jami Belt

Using citizen science volunteers to monitor mountain goats and pikas in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park resource managers need baseline information about the status of mountain goats and pikas to detect population changes that may occur. The High Country Citizen Science project engages trained volunteers to collect data on mountain goats and pikas, species whose habitat may be adversely impacted by climate change. Pikas have already been extirpated in portions of the Great Basin due to climate change impacts, and their numbers have declined in other portions of their range. Little is known about how mountain goats will adapt to warmer average temperatures and other habitat level changes. Concerns about the stability of Glacier's mountain goat population have arisen due to a decline in recent years in the number of mountain goats using a large mineral lick.

Glacier's citizen science program has been established to help resource managers address the need for baseline information and monitoring. The use of "citizen scientist" volunteers to collect research data is growing in National Parks and other land management agencies. Citizen science projects generally are low in cost, engage large numbers of people to gather large datasets, use non-invasive monitoring methods, educate participants about resource issues and foster stewardship amongst participants. However, concerns about the scientific validity of data gathered by volunteers with varying levels of experience have led to limited use of the data by resource managers.

The goal of our research is to analyze the efficacy of using observational data gathered by volunteers for long-term monitoring of mountain goats and pikas in Glacier National Park. We will compare volunteers' data on abundance and distribution of mountain goats during 2008 and 2009 to data collected by biological science technicians during the same time period, using both paired and independent observations. We will also determine detectability of pikas by volunteers at sites with known pika inhabitation.

To date, 86 High Country Citizen Science volunteers have been recruited and trained to complete systematic 1- hour long mountain goat and/or pika surveys at 36 mountain goat and 20 pika survey sites. They have completed 186 mountain goat surveys with a goal of conducting at least 3 surveys at each site. We are developing a GIS-based viewshed analysis of each site to determine the portion of potential mountain goat habitat visible at all survey sites. Volunteers have also conducted 46 surveys at 19 of the 20 established pika sites and have located and surveyed 15 additional pika sites. We will contrast pika data collected by volunteers with data collected from more rigid and systematic surveys.

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