“The glaciers are disappearing,” Glacier National Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright acknowledges, pointing to modeling results suggesting the iconic park will be without its glaciers sometime between 2020 and 2030.
But speaking during a recent Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) Missoula, Montana, annual conference and a day-long tour of the park, Cartwright urged the media to “get deeper” and explore the broader significance for the park, its environs, and its species. There’s no denying that Glacier has gone from some 135 named glaciers at the end of the Little Ice Age in 1850 to a current count of 25 of more than 25 square acres. But there’s a whole lot more to the park overall than “just” its iconic glaciers, and Cartwright, in a Yale Forum on-site video interview, says he wants the media’s and the general public’s input into weighing the park’s future.
He points to Glacier’s activities in citizen science as a key to its communications strategy. Involving citizens actively in the park’s scientific activities “gets people hearing the science directly,” Cartwright said. “It gets them integrally involved in what we are going to do about it,” he said.
One thing the parks’ rangers are doing to communicate with the public about Glacier in a warming world involves their aggressive use of social media — Facebook, Twitter, and the Vimeo video-sharing site, Glacier Park Interpretive Specialist Bill Hayden told The Yale Forum in a separate video interview. “It all makes an amazing connection” for repeat or frequent park visitors, Hayden said, “but also for people who have never been here.”
In sometimes muted voices amidst the background chatter of nearby rangers briefing several dozen visiting reporters, Cartwright and Hayden offer their insights on Glacier sans glaciers … and on their pioneering use of social media in their park’s science communications efforts.