Geoscientists-in-the-Parks – A Great Way to Spend a Summer Doing Geoscience Work in National Parks

Title: Geoscientists-in-the-Parks – A Great Way to Spend a Summer Doing Geoscience Work in National Parks

Author: Lisa Norby, Geoscientists-in-the-Parks Program Manager, National Park Service

Publication: The Outcrop, May 2011, p. 8, 11

Article Type: Lead Story


5.11 Outcrop_Leadstory 1
Jacob Grosskopf, 210 Geoscientists-in-the-Parks participant at Dinosaur National Monument in CO studying the geographic and stratigraphic distribution of vertebrate, invertebrate, and paleobotanical fossils in the Late Triassic Chinle Formation.

Have you ever imagined that you could spend a summer working on a geology project in one of America’s most beautiful places? If so, you should check out the National Park Service’s Geoscientists-in-the- Parks (GIP) Program! The GIP program was started in 1996 in response to requests from National Park staff to fill their unmet geoscience needs. The goals of the GIP program are to build technical capacity for parks, provide on-the-job geoscience training, and enhance the public’s understanding of the Earth sciences. The program has steadily grown from five geologists being placed in parks in 1996 to more than 60 geoscientists doing projects this summer throughout the National Park System. In all, the program has placed nearly 700 participants in National Park Service areas over the past 15 years.


In 1997, the National Park Service Geologic Re-sources Division partnered with the Geological Society of America to create the GeoCorps America™ Program, that places

5.11 Outcrop_Leadstory 2
Jon Harvey, 2009 Geoscientists-in-the-Parks participant at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in Alaska reconstructing the glacial history of the park.

students, professionals, teachers, and retirees in National Parks, National Forests, and in Bureau of Land Management areas to assist with a variety of exciting geoscience and integrated science projects. Whi le the program emphasizes onthe- ground experiential learning for students, many seasoned professionals and retirees have found that it is a great way to get outside, enjoy the scenery, and do a little geology. To enhance the program and increase participation by under-represented groups in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), the NPS and GSA launched Diversity and American Indian internships this year. In addition to the federal agencies and The Geological Society of America, program partners include the GSA Foundation, The Association for Women Geoscientists, ENVIRON, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, and numerous park associations.

5.11 Outcrop_Leadstory 3
Rebecca Port, 2009 Geoscientists-in-the-Parks participant at Rocky Mountain National Park doing an interpretative presentation on the geology of the park for an elementary school class.

Geoscientist-in-the-Parks projects are split equally among inventory and monitoring, research, and interpretation/education projects. GIP projects address a broad array of geoscience topics including geologic hazards, restoration, climate change, soils, preservation of geoheritage resources (e.g., caves and karst, fossils, dunes, volcanoes, geothermal resources), and other park ecosystem-wide resource management issues. A typical GIP position could involve interpreting the geology of Glacier National Park for park visitors, assessing geohazards at Mount Rainier National Park to prevent future flooding of the park’s campground and park infrastructure, or inventorying fossils at Denali National Park and Preserve to protect these irreplaceable resources.


5.11 Outcrop_Leadstory 4
Christina Forbes, 2010 Geoscientists-in-the-Parks participant at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska describing the park’s unique geology to park visitors.

The GIP positions typically last 3 months but can extend up to a year for more complex projects. Each participant receives a stipend of $2,750 to $6,000 plus free housing or a housing allowance for each 3 month project. Compensation increases for more complex or longer-term Guest Scientist positions. Positions are advertised twice a year (December – January and May – June) on the GSA GeoCorps website (

If you are interested in finding out more about the program see the National Park Service’s Geoscientists-in-the-Park’s website at: or The Geological Society of America’s GeoCorps America website at: