Figure 1. The desert oasis of the Madrona pools in Saguaro National Park was the site of a pulse study in May 2003. The dynamic pulse process provides immediate results and mountains of data for park planning and decision making.
THE VERY FIRST ISSUE OF PARK SCIENCE featured a story on a “pulse study” at the Hoh River drainage in Olympic National Park in Washington (Anonymous 1980). Inspired by this example and similar studies in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks in 1982 and 1994 (Matthews 1983, 1994), Saguaro National Park sponsored a pulse study of the Madrona Ranger Station area (“Madrona”) in May 2003. Although it has been an important site for park (backcountry) operations for years, park managers knew little about Madrona’s natural or cultural history and resources. Pulse studies vary, but basically they bring together scientists and managers to “take the pulse”; that is, quickly assess the ecological health of an ecosystem or area. Pulse studies originated with University of Washington professor and U.S. Forest Service ecologist Jerry Franklin, who believed passionately that science is essential for managing natural areas but requires scientists who can think outside of their narrow disciplines, and managers who take the time to listen and understand. Franklin would invite scientists from a range of disciplines to join managers for intensive field-based studies. Participants worked and camped together, sharing ideas around the campfire at night. Superintendent Boyd Evison lauded the pulse study at Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks for providing the kind of interdisciplinary information “that most parks unfortunately seem to have little hope of obtaining” (Matthews 1994, p. 5).
“Pulse studies … bring together scientists and managers to … quickly assess the ecological health of an ecosystem or area.”
Madrona is a lush desert oasis of spring-fed pools far from the park’s popular cactus forest (fig. 1, above). The Madrona Ranger Station had been the longtime base camp for Saguaro National Park’s backcountry operation but was abandoned around 1999 because of environmental and health hazards associated with the deteriorating facility. Public access had been limited for decades, but potential changes in management and visitor use, and rapid development outside park boundaries, raised concerns about the site’s future. Park staff had heard about pulse studies and thought that this model might be a cost-effective—and quick—way to gather information that would be useful for making decisions about the site.
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This page updated:
2 November 2009
Suggested citation for this article:
Swann, D. E., M. W. Weesner, S. Craighead, and L. L. Norris. 2009. Case Study: Pulse study links scientists and managers: An example from Saguaro National Park. Park Science 26(2):64–69.
Available at https://www.nature.nps.gov/ParkScience/archive/PDF/Article_PDFs/ParkScience26(2)Fall2009_64-69_Swann_et_al_2659.pdf.
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