Press Release Nov 12, 2020

New Virtual Workshop Connects University Science Students With Policy to Support Indiana Dunes National Park

Today's young scientists are at the forefront of informing policy that will protect Indiana Dunes and all of our national treasures. 

Chesterton, Ind. – This week, more than 70 students from Indiana University Northwest, Governors State University, Valparaiso University, and Ivy Tech will join the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the National Park Service and the Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship Through Education Network (GLISTEN) to learn more about their nearby national park – Indiana Dunes – the threats facing it, and ways they can help protect it. NPCA and its partners will host a virtual workshop to connect science and natural resource students with researchers and policy experts to discuss how a complex ecosystem like Indiana Dunes exists in a highly industrialized landscape. The workshop will also help connect student’s own research to work being done by the National Park Service and others.

“Indiana Dunes faces serious threats from climate change eroding prized beaches, to chemical spills threatening water quality and park visitors,” said Colin Deverell, Midwest Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Today’s young scientists will be at the forefront of informing policy that protects our national treasures. These students are our future and whether it’s through their studies or their personal experiences at Indiana Dunes, we hope they feel connected to our national parks and are inspired to speak up on their behalf.”

The workshop offers students an opportunity to share their science-based work and to better understand how their areas of study can directly benefit Indiana Dunes and the broader landscape. Goals of the workshop include reinforcing the connection of science to policymaking, and will provide students with avenues to make their voices heard and support their own professional growth and development.

“Undergraduates possess their own expertise, insights, and perspectives from scientific coursework and research that can contribute to solving local conservation issues,” said Dr. Erin Argyilan, Director of GLISTEN. “Creating opportunities for undergraduates to engage collaboratively with peers and professionals to address complex issues facing the national park provides them with action-based research, and better prepares students for careers in conservation.”

Indiana Dunes National Park is one of the most biodiverse of our more than 400 national parks. This rare ecological oasis is located just 35 miles outside of Chicago and includes more than 15,000 acres of sensitive dune lands, bird-filled marshes, oak and maple forests, and remnants of once-vast prairies. More than 350 species of birds have been spotted in the park and researchers have found more than 90 endangered plant species within the park’s boundaries. Millions of visitors flock to Indiana Dunes National Park annually to hike the park’s namesake dunes, swim and paddle in Lake Michigan, enjoy the beaches and trails, and explore the beauty the park offers.

“This project reminds us here about the importance of using science in addressing park management challenges,” said Paul Labovitz, Superintendent of Indiana Dunes National Park. “Every day we are faced with decisions that have long term implications for park resources. The matrix of influences we consider should always be led by sound science. Engaging park users and future leaders in this discussion is critical to make sure that remains true.”

Following the workshop, students will have the opportunity to continue engaging on issues impacting Indiana Dunes, as well as connecting with public service and park experts about future collaboration.

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About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship Through Education Network (GLISTEN)- The Calumet Cluster of GLISTEN is a collaborative effort by local colleges, universities and environmental community partners to engage students in direct-action efforts to preserve and restore the environmental health of the Lake Michigan watershed.

Indiana Dunes National Park is part of the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 422 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.

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