Gavin Cooper – Partners in the Park

The Partners in the Park program has provided me with one of the greatest opportunities in my life. I traveled with seven other honors students to Glacier National Park in Montana. The main objective of the trip was to perform citizen science. We performed our duties while exploring the incredible landscapes of the park. We were also tasked with surveying huckleberries on some of the most iconic trails within the park. Our group camped during the duration of the trip, allowing us to build a better connection with the natural world. On the first day, we had training with park officials to learn more about the park and the mission of the National Park Service. The staff we met were extremely helpful and enthusiastic about their jobs. This made all of us that much more excited about the entire trip. It was eye-opening to see how interconnected everything within the park was. For example, huckleberry abundance can be used to gauge bear activity in certain areas. This allows officials to make alterations to the park guidelines and regulations as needed to ensure the safety of both the bears and guests. Additionally, the staff taught us the idea of conservation vs. preservation, giving us a whole new perspective on the objectives of national parks.

During the trip, we saw a wide variety of wildlife, including bears, mountain goats, big horn sheep, mountain lions, and even hoary marmots. At our campsite, our group had a close encounter with a juvenile black bear. It was fascinating to witness the rapid response from the park rangers. Before this trip, I assumed a bear wandering into a campsite was a general occurrence. However, the rangers went into action to prevent the bear from getting comfortable around humans. This really showed how the NPS values preservation and maintaining minimal interference from humans within the park. The trails we explored were amazing and breathtakingly beautiful. They almost seemed too good to be real, as if it was a CGI creation born from the mind of an artist. It was rewarding to provide huckleberry surveys for the park, which could further aid in preserving the park’s beauty for future generations. This trip was the greatest outdoor experience I have ever had and taught me many important lessons I can utilize back home. I will never forget my journey through Glacier National Park and the amazing people I met along the way.

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