As partners in the NPS Geologic Resources Inventory (GRI), CSU research associates research, write, edit, and develop graphics for each park-specific report. CSU research associates use the university’s extensive research and library resources in preparing GRI reports, and follow up with park staff and local geologic experts in compiling the most up-to-date information and scientific interpretations.
GRI reports make park geology more accessible—first to a primary target audience, park resource managers, who generally have a background in a natural science such as forestry, wildlife biology, or ecology, but not typically geology. Other target audiences are park planners, interpreters, and the general public, including professors and students who use parks as outdoor classrooms and destinations on geologic field trips. CSU research associates “translate” technical, geologic information and present it in a compelling and understandable way for these audiences.
A significant part of GRI reports is a discussion of a park’s most prominent geologic features and processes. The geologic resources of national parks are often the reason they were set aside for preservation and public enjoyment, and many of these features are national icons, for example, the Tetons in Grand Teton National Park; El Capitan in Yosemite National Park; Delicate Arch in Arches National Park; the eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires of Badlands National Park; the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park; and towering Mount McKinley in Denali National Park. Geology influences the human history commemorated in historical and cultural parks such as Little Round Top at Gettysburg National Military Park, karst karren at Stones River National Battlefield, and ceremonial mounds on glacial outwash terraces at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. GRI reports highlight these distinctive features and put them in a geologic context with respect to Earth history, evolution of a park’s landscape to the present day, depositional and geomorphic settings, rock and mineral compositions, and connections between geology and park stories.
Geologic features and processes constitute an “issue” where they threaten the safety of park visitors and staff or the integrity of park infrastructure. Discussion of geologic issues is a significant component of each GRI report. Issues include rockfall along the trails in Yosemite National Park; blowing sand across paved roads and gypsum “glue” in machinery, windows, and doors at White Sands National Park; theft of fossils at Fossil Butte National Monument and Petrified Forest National Park, sea-level rise at Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park; protection of cave resources at Wind Cave National Park; and volcano hazards at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. GRI reports are often the only park-specific source for such information.