North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership: Using GIS to Assess and Adapt Travel in the North Cascadia Region under a Changing Climate

NPS Unit: Pacific Northwest Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (PNW CESU); Mount Rainier National Park (MORA); North Cascades National Park Complex (NOCA)
Location: University of Washington, Seattle; NOCA and MORA, Washington
Project Title:   Using GIS to Assess and Adapt Travel in the North Cascadia Region under a Changing Climate
Pay: Interns will be paid $12/hour for a total of 480 hours.
Position Description: This project facilitates the goals of the North Cascadia Adaptation Partnership (NCAP;, which is a National Park Service – Forest Service collaboration on climate change adaptation.  NCAP has four main partners: Mount Rainer National Park (MORA), North Cascades National Park Complex (NOCA), and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forests.  Vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans have been developed through a series of four workshops addressing fish, vegetation, wildlife, and access.To support the work on access vulnerability and adaptation, a University of Washington (UW) graduate student, with funding from the Northwest Climate Science Center, is conducting research on the response of hydrologic systems to future climate.  This project combines future projections of changing precipitation and soil moisture dynamics with land surface characteristics to model potential slope failures (e.g., landslides) and their consequent impacts on roads and trails in the NCAP region.  One research goal is to conduct a network analysis of roads and trails to determine optimal travel routes to high valued destinations, such as viewpoints, trailheads, and campgrounds in MORA and NOCA.  Other goals are to better understand the distribution and characteristics of areas that are of increasing risk to access, structures, and ecological resources, and to examine ways to increase resilience to maintain access under a changing climate.  

The intern will assist in conducting this regional road/trail network analysis and in compiling data to help identify areas of increasing risk to access, structures, and resources.  The work is a combination of office and field work, with about 70% of the time involved in developing the geospatial (GIS) databases in preparation for network analysis and related evaluations.  Tasks include: studying background material and models of changing hydrology (precipitation, snow water equivalent, soil moisture, etc.) in the NCAP region; distinguishing and labeling links and attributes of the existing roads and trails layers; identifying and labeling high valued destinations (e.g., campgrounds, trailheads); checking and correcting errors in GIS data, as needed; conducting field work of selected areas in MORA and/or NOCA to provide ancillary field data on landscapes and/or road/trail characteristics for conducting and interpreting the road/trail network analysis; and drafting a short, popular article and/or presentation useful for describing the project objectives, approach, and results.

Learning goals: The intern will learn about climate change projections of hydrological factors (including precipitation and soil moisture) for a large landscape in the Pacific Northwest.  At the park level, the intern will also learn about the complex topography of the region, and have direct learning experience with the interrelationships of roads and trails across two federal land management agencies.  Through field work, the intern will also learn about the importance of access in complex and complicated terrain, and gain experience in interpreting landscape features. The intern will receive training and experience with geospatial database development and application in a network analysis.  The intern will learn how changes to a road/trail network can influence access to areas of high value, such as viewpoints, campgrounds, visitor centers, and trailheads.   The intern will also gain experience with new strategies federal managers are considering to increase resilience in road and/or trail access in responding to a changing climate.
Mentoring: The PNW CESU Research Coordinator (Chris Lauver) will provide overall guidance to the intern’s professional and educational development.  Dr. Lauver will foster a productive working environment between the intern and the UW graduate student, ensure that the intern has the computer hardware and software necessary to carry out the tasks described above, and will convene regular informal meetings with the project team to assess progress toward objectives and address any issues.  The NPS Science Advisor (Regina Rochefort) is the NPS lead on the NCAP project and brings this knowledge to the team, will facilitate communications with NPS staff and the acquisition of NPS data as needed, participate in team meetings, and assist with logistics for conducting field work at the park units.
Qualifications: The intern should be enrolled in or have completed a four year degree program with a focus or degree in the geographic or biological sciences (e.g., geography, ecology, biology, geology), and/or civil and environmental engineering.  The intern should have completed at least an introductory course in geographic information systems (GIS); further coursework and/or skills with GIS are highly desirable.
Position Dates: May 15 – August 15, 2012 (dates are flexible)
Housing Available: Housing is not available in Seattle, but available at the two parks during field work at no cost to the intern.  Intern would likely share space with others.
Vehicle/License Required: A vehicle could be useful for conducting field work; a valid Driver’s license is then required.  If intern does not have a vehicle, other transportation options will be examined to facilitate field work.
Work Environment: The intern will be working in an office environment on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle.  There will be some work in the field to provide ancillary field data on landscapes and/or road/trail characteristics.  Some walking in hilly terrain is required.