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Volume 29
Number 1
Spring-Summer 2012
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Photo of Trail Ridge Road at Rocky Mountain National Park, site of the permafrost study. Hot research/Cool science: An investigation of permafrost in a changing alpine environment
By Cheri Yost and Jason Janke
Published: 4 Sep 2015 (online)  •  14 Sep 2015 (in print)
Monitoring permafrost temperatures
Results and discussion
Educational and practical benefits
Partnership expansion
About the authors
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Photo of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.


Trail Ridge Road, site of the permafrost research project at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Dr. Jason Janke was silent on the phone. I thought perhaps he was already calculating his costs or planning his next research move. He confessed the next day that he was just in shock. He had never had anyone call and offer to fund his research. As a staff member of the Continental Divide Research Learning Center, I had worked with scores of researchers on projects in Rocky Mountain National Park. Never had I been able to call and offer funding.

The Research Learning Center had recently convened a meeting, attended by partner scientists, to synthesize the effects of climate change on the park’s ecosystems. As Ben Bobowski, the park’s chief of resource stewardship, noted, “We are left with more questions than answers.” But attendees gave clear suggestions for future research and monitoring efforts. One recommended priority was to “conduct field investigations of permafrost and determine its relationship to vegetation communities.” We had a small amount of money and a clear need. Dr. Janke’s dissertation focused on modeling the extent of permafrost across northern Colorado. I called to ask if he could check the accuracy of that model for just $10,000. He accepted. Soon our simple project of mapping permafrost had transformed into a fruitful partnership that not only tackled practical scientific research but also benefited students, park staff, and the public in unexpected ways.

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This page updated:  10 September 2012

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