Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center (NOROCK)

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Glacial fed alpine stream in Glacier National Park.
September 13, 2017

Glacier National Park (GNP) is considered a stronghold for a large diversity of plant and animal species and harbors some of the last remaining populations of threatened and endangered species such as grizzly bear and bull trout, as well as non threatened keystone species such as bighorn sheep and black bear. The mountain ecosystems of GNP that support these species are dynamic and influenced by landscape scale phenomenon such as forest fire and climate change, as well as development and land use practices. And the Parks iconic namesake glaciers are receding at an unprecedented rate. For almost three decades scientists with the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center’s West Glacier Field Station have provided scientific information needed to manage and restore the ecosystems and associated plant and animal communities in and around GNP.

This image shows the perimeter of Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park in 1966,1998, 2005, and 2015.
May 9, 2017

The retreat of glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana, has received widespread attention by the media, the public, and scientists because it is a clear and poignant indicator of change in the northern Rocky Mountains of the USA.  In 2017 the USGS and partner, Portland State University, released a dataset which describes the areas of the 37 named glaciers in Glacier National Park and two glaciers on the U.S. Forest Service’s Flathead National Forest land. The areas are described for 1966, 1998, 2005 and 2015/2016, marking 49 years of change for most of the glaciers and 50 years of change for a few.  The difference in record length is due to adequate satellite data not being available for a few glaciers in 2015.

This is a glacier animation for Glacier National Park.
May 9, 2017

The simulation reflects the predicted exponential rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, a 2xCO2 "global warming" scenario, by 2030 with a concurrent warming of 2-3 degrees centigrade (4-5 degrees Fahrenheit) by the year 2050. In addition it assumes that precipitation, primarily during the winter, will increase over the same time period five to 10 percent. The animation view of the Blackfoot-Jackson basin along the Continental Divide, includes Gunsight Lake in the foreground and a portion of Lake Ellen Wilson visible over Gunsight Pass.

Sandhill Cranes fly in close proximity to wind turbines near Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in east-central Wisconsin.
March 16, 2017

Today, the alternative energy and telecommunications industries are developing the airspace much the way metropolitan growth and mechanized agriculture develop the landscape. NOROCK scientists and partners are using both historical and traditional technologies in new and innovative ways to observe wildlife behaviors in response to these changing habitats.

Screen shot of ScienceCache mobile application's site information.
March 6, 2017

If you like to geocache and you want to contribute to research, or you are a scientist looking to engage the public in repeat observations at a particular place, you should try ScienceCache.  

ScienceCache is a scientific geocaching mobile application framework.  By melding training and games into the hunt for place-based data collection sites, and incorporating photo uploads as data or for authentication, new volunteers can collaborate in robust data collection. As a volunteer, simply download the ScienceCache app, choose a route, and then follow the directions to collect data.  

Scientists build a project on the administrative website app, specifying locations or goals for new data collection sites, clues for established sites, and questions to answer, measurements, or other activities for the site based on their individual data needs.

USGS is building on the success of the USA National Phenology Network (NPN) and Science Base, using a case study assessing phenology of bear foods in Glacier National Park and applying those lessons to a second project evaluating tree invasion into alpine meadows using repeat photography.

A feral hog is in a trap in southeastern U.S. awaiting immobilization and GPS collar.
March 3, 2017

The wild hog (Sus scrofa) is an exotic invasive species that significantly impacts native resources and their populations are expanding significantly throughout the United States.  In addition, wild hogs are likely contributing to the spread of disease such as pseudorabies. National Park Service units in the Southeast that have populations of exotic wild hogs include Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (BISO) in Tennessee and Kentucky and Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) in Tennessee and North Carolina.  NOROCK is working with GRSM and BISO managers to study seasonal movement information of wild hogs to determine how they move across the landscape.


Yellowstone Lake trout
February 23, 2017

These Frequently Asked Questions and responses were developed by USGS and their partners with the Lake Trout Suppression Scientific Review Panel *.  The purpose of these FAQs is to provide answers to several of the more common questions concerning the lake trout suppression program in Yellowstone Lake, within Yellowstone National Park, and provide information about the current status of the program.  For more information, contact Robert Gresswell at

Invasive New Zealand mud snails as seen under a microscope.
February 2, 2017

Researchers at the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center's Western Waters Invasive Species and Disease Research Program work extensively with federal, state, tribal, regional, and local partners to deliver science to improve early detection and prevention of invasive species and disease; understand complex interactions that promote invasive species and disease, and their impacts (and associated uncertainties); develop robust models to predict invasion risk, spread and vulnerability for planning and mitigation; and deliver decision support tools to help stakeholders prevent, prepare, and manage invasive species and disease across the West. NOROCK has extensive experience collaborating with resource managers across diverse ecosystems ranging from arid lands, to mountainous landscapes, to alpine environments throughout the western United States, including Alaska.

Animated GIF of a bear rubbing up against a tree which appears to be dancing
January 25, 2017

The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) in northwest Montana is one of the last strongholds of the grizzly bear in the lower 48 states. Of the six established grizzly bear recovery zones, the NCDE is the third largest in area, potentially harboring the greatest number of grizzly bears, and is the only zone contiguous to a strong Canadian population. However, little information exists about the bears in this region and as agencies strive to recover the threatened grizzly bear, it is clear that there is a need to assess the grizzly bear population in the NCDE. Managers and biologists are working to identify population size, trend, survival, and the corridors that link separate populations. Advances in genetic technology allow us to address these parameters through the identification of species, sex, and individuals from DNA extracted from bear hair without ever handling a bear.

Canvasback ducks in a wetland.
November 18, 2016

The Wetland STM project is creating a state-and-transition model to inform management of semi-permanently flooded wetlands in the Intermountain West and western Prairie Pothole Region, as well as designing a monitoring scheme to allow determination of current wetland condition.

Photograph of bats
October 26, 2016

North American bats face unprecedented threats including habitat loss and fragmentation, white-nose syndrome, wind energy development, and climate change. However, it is difficult evaluating the impacts of these threats because there is a lack of basic information about the distribution and abundance of bats across the continent. Although bat monitoring has been done in individual areas and for individual projects, until now, there has been no statistically robust and standardized monitoring program across North America to assess the status and trends of bat populations. With development of the NABat program, managers can use the information garnered from this continental-scale, long-term program to better document the impact of these threats, estimate extinction risk, set conservation priorities and evaluate the effectiveness of conservation actions.

ScienceCache screen shot.
June 27, 2016

Working with the Northern Rockies Science Center, the Information Science Branch designed and developed ScienceCache, a scientific geocaching mobile application framework. Initially developed for citizen science data collection, the application was extended to work for any field data collection effort. The lead researcher controls the data collection route, collection forms, and data repository through a web application, and the mobile application presents that configuration to the mobile user, or citizen scientists to use while collecting data.