Citizen Science and Stewardship


citizen science: meaningful research on public lands

North Cascades Institute seeks Citizen Scientists – people who are excited to assist with valuable scientific research – in the North Cascades and Skagit Valley. These projects provide a fun and educational way for people who may not have previous scientific training to engage in meaningful research. Participants work with researchers who are active in the North Cascades ecosystem and help them achieve research goals that might be difficult without the assistance of a committed group of volunteers, students, and enthusiastic contributors. The research is an important contribution towards understanding these complex ecosystems and how to best conserve them.

Spotlight on Maple Pass

The Maple Pass loop trail is one of the most visited hikes along the North Cascades Highway. This gem of a hike starts off in dense Silver firs forest and passes through many different lifezones on it’s way up to Maple Pass at 6,850 ft. Views abound as rugged mountains, glaciers, alpine lakes and alpine meadows spread out before you. The beauty of this trail has not been lost to others and many years of hiker travel has had its toll on the fragile alpine plants. This has resulted in many different social trails, trampled plants and a compromised ecosystem.

The Maple Pass Restoration Project is in the first of many years as it strives to bring integrity back to this high mountain ecosystem. Join North Cascades Institute, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and North Cascades National Park to restore this beautiful landscape.

Learn more on our blog at

Other ongoing initiatives include:

Cascades Butterfly Project

The North Cascades Institute is proud to be partnering with the National Park Service in a collaborative effort that unites biologists and citizen scientists, to work together to monitor butterfly populations throughout North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This long-term monitoring effort is researching how alpine butterfly populations will respond to expected changes in their fragile mountain habitats.

Download Cascades Butterfly Project Resource Brief

Carnivore Connectivity

This exciting research is using non-invasive methods to assess the habitat connectivity within the North Cascades Ecosystem. Institute staff is assisting the project by monitoring marten hair snares that will help researchers determine what impacts highways and development may have on native carnivore movement and populations. See "The Sweet Smell of Winter" on our blog Chattermarks for details.

Water Quality

North Cascades Institute staff and volunteers are helping aquatic ecologists from North Cascades National Park to collect baseline water quality data from Diablo Lake and Deer Creek. This data is helping to provide insights to guide the management of our precious aquatic resources.

The North Cascades Wolverine Project

The Wolverine is one of North America's most rare and elusive carnivores, and inhabits the mountainous wilderness of the North Cascades. In 2012, The North Cascades Institute is assisting biologists John Rohrer and Scott Fitkin in their efforts to capture and radio monitor wolverines throughout the rugged North Cascades ecosystem.

Download North Cascades Wolverine Study Annual Report 2010


While studying at the Environmental Learning Center, students are helping staff collect data to add to the National Phenology Network’s national database. Understanding phenological events (like the dates of the first Pacific Dogwood blooms and arrival of migratory bird species) is important in gaining an understanding of how ‘Nature’s Calendar’ changes over time in response to climate change and other factors.

Whitebark Pine Monitoring

Whitebark Pines play an important role in the ecology of the cold and dry montane environments of the North Cascades. Not only do they provide a critical food source for birds, bears and squirrels, they also influence abiotic factors like snowmelt and soil development. Institute staff and volunteers are assisting biologists from North Cascades National Park in monitoring this important tree species because its long-term survival is imperiled by blister rust and mountain pine beetles.

Download Whitebark Pine Resource Brief