GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 236-3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


HARRIS, Anna G., GeoCorps, 3300 Penrose Place, Boulder, CO 80301,

The National Parks are America’s breathing spaces in a world where wild land is disappearing. Climate change is altering the face of Glacier National Park, jeopardizing the existence of the flora and fauna making this a crucial moment in history. Interpretative guides face the challenge of presenting complex science to visitors, inspiring them to take ownership over preservation of our natural resources. With more than 2 million visitors a year Glacier National Park guides have an excellent opportunity to directly leverage the National Park’s preservation mission through its interpretation curriculum. Park interpreters, the public face of the park, receive over 80 hours of formal training in interpretive skills and a minimum of 40 hours on-the-job training. They are responsible for researching, preparing, and presenting a range of interpretive programs.

Over 100 years ago John Muir set the standard for this tradition that has continued to evolve within the park system, “I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can." (John Muir, 1896). The variety of outreach and interpretation activities represented in this talk, taken from the 2016 summer season at Glacier National Park, provide a snapshot of a moment of time, the 100th anniversary of the National Park System, of the challenges facing park interpreters as well as the pressing global issues represented in their programming. From climate change to extinction, perhaps it is not so much what we learn that matters in these transformative moments, “but what we feel in relationship to a world beyond ourselves, even beyond our own species” (Terry Tempest Williams, 2016). Through the valuable work of park interpretation, visitors and people all over the planet are called to work together to protect our future land.