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Southern Colorado Plateau Network (SCPN)

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Southern Colorado Plateau Network Partnerships

1856 - Black's Atlas Of North America (David Rumsey Historic Map Collection) 1857 - Advertising Atlas of America (David Rumsey Historic Map Collection) 1863 - Map of Mexico and California (David Rumsey Historic Map Collection) 1865 - Carte Generale Des Etats-Unis (General Map of the United States)(David Rumsey Historic Map Collection) 1867 - New Illustrated Family Atlas Of The World  (David Rumsey Historic Map Collection) 1873 - Die Vereinigten Staaten Von Nord-Amerika (The United States of North America) (David Rumsey Historic Map Collection) 1874 - Asher and Adams' United States and territories (David Rumsey Historic Map Collection) 1876 - Geological & Topographical Atlas (Exploration of the 40th Parallel) (David Rumsey Historic Map Collection) 1879 - Map of the Territory of the U.S. West of the Mississippi River - A.A.Humphreys (David Rumsey Historic Map Collection) 1967 - The World Atlas - United States of America, West (David Rumsey Historic Map Collection) 2013 - Colored hillshade map of the Colorado Plateau area (USGS) 2013 - Colored hillshade map with SCPN network and parks (USGS & NPS)

If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive.
If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative.


The Southern Colorado Plateau Inventory & Monitoring Network (SCPN) works with many partners to accomplish its work. Partner scientists have conducted resource inventories, contributed research to the development of monitoring protocols, and developed ecological models and analytic tools.

While a host of partners have contributed to SCPN projects, three institutions have played a key role over the last decade: the Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit, Northern Arizona University and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Click on panels below for more information about SCPN partnerships. Expand All / Collapse All

NAU logo

Northern Arizona University (NAU): SCPN has had a long-standing collaboration with NAU ( This relationship nurtures rich collaborations with many NAU departments, including Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Geology, Forestry, and the School of Communication. These collaborations take many forms:

  • NAU faculty and graduate students contribute their expertise to natural resource inventory and monitoring projects across network parks.
  • NAU students, graduate students and recent graduates receive valuable training and experience as field crew employees for SCPN monitoring projects, or through working with SCPN ecologists on data analysis projects.
  • NAU students work with SCPN and network parks on science communication projects.
  • The SCPN program manager serves as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability and co-teaches a graduate seminar on ecological monitoring and assessment.
  • SCPN staff ecologists serve as guest lecturers across a range of disciplines and courses.

More than a decade of collaboration has reaped benefits for both partners. NAU undergraduate and graduate students gain experience in field studies and opportunities to integrate what they have learned and apply it to real world research projects. NAU's College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Science mission promotes such creative application of knowledge in a practical collaborative setting. Working with the scientific community at NAU helps SCPN achieve its mission of providing park managers with a broad-based understanding of the status and long-term trends in the condition of park ecosystems and resources.


Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit (CPCESU): One of 17 Cooperative Ecosystem Study Units across the country, the CPCESU links federal agencies with universities and other institutions to facilitate exchange of resources, expertise and technical assistance.

With overlapping goals and a similar geographic focus on the Colorado Plateau, it's only fitting that CPCESU & SCPN are co-located on the NAU campus in Flagstaff. Originally funded through the 1999 Natural Resource Challenge, the CPCESU and SCPN are uniquely positioned to link Colorado Plateau parks with the broader scientific community as they carry out their common objectives.

  • Both nationwide programs take collaborative approaches to bring sound science and scholarship into NPS resource management. (See NPS I&M and Colorado Plateau CESU)
  • Both programs work locally with individual parks, as well as on broader regional resource issues.
  • Both programs interact with a diverse range of academic partners, including students and graduates interested in federal land management careers.

By design and through their collaborative work both networks promote connectivity within and among parks, between NPS and academic institutions and across the larger conservation landscape.

Learn more about some of the SCPN's current CPCESU partners and projects.

NAU logo

US Geological Survey (USGS): USGS scientists from the Southwest Biological Sciences Center, the Fort Collins Science Center, and the Water Resources Division support SCPN's efforts to apply sound science to resource management. The work outlined below contributes to USGS goals to improve understanding of ecosystems, to develop conservation strategies, and to enhance modeling and forecasting to support decision-making.

  • USGS wildlife biologists conducted vertebrate inventories for many SCPN parks.
  • USGS ecologists completed several vegetation mapping projects and contributed to the development of upland, aquatic macroinvertebrate, and riparian monitoring protocols.
  • USGS and SCPN co-authored a proposal in 2012 to model soil water availability across upland ecosystems where monitoring is underway.
  • More recently, through the USGS National Park Monitoring Project, USGS, SCPN and Northern Colorado Plateau Network ecologists worked together to identify ecological thresholds for terrestrial dryland ecosystems.

Current SCPN Collaborative Projects through the Colorado Plateau CESU

To learn more about some of the SCPN's current CPCESU partners and projects, click on the panel below.

Logo for Merriam Powel Center for Envi Research (MPCER) Logo for Utah State University (USU) Logo for the BugLab Logo for Remote Sensing and GIS Labratory Logo for University of New Mexico (UNM) Logo for Earth Data Analysis Center (EDAC) Logo for Museum South West Biology Logo for Natural Heritage New Mexico Logo for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Logo for Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) Logo for Nature Serve Logo for Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) Logo for the Sonoran Institute

National Aquatic Monitoring Center - “The BugLab”

Utah State University, Logan


Aquatic Macroinvertebrates

Principal Investigator:

Scott Miller, Director

SCPN is monitoring aquatic macroinvertebrates in network parks as an overall indicator of stream conditions. The USU BugLab has been contributing specialized scientific expertise to the project since 2007 by identifying and enumerating aquatic macroinvertebrate samples. USU-BugLab scientists have also contributed their ecological expertise to the development of springs monitoring approaches and have provided training in macroinvertebrate sampling methodology to SCPN technicians.

This collaborative project supports SCPN's mission by supplying public land managers with high-quality information on the condition of Colorado Plateau streams. The work contributes to the broader USU-BugLab goal of assessing and monitoring the condition of aquatic resources throughout the western United States.

Remote Sensing Services Laboratory

Utah State University, Logan


Riparian Corridor Mapping Using LiDAR and Multispectral Imagery

Principal Investigator:

Christopher Neale, Director

SCPN ecologists monitor stream hydrology, geomorphology and vegetation as an integrated suite of indicators of riparian condition. However, the traditional field-based methods that the network uses to survey stream channel cross-sections are labor-intensive and not practical to apply over long river corridors like the Escalante River in Glen Canyon NRA. SCPN is working with the Remote Sensing/Geographic Information Systems Laboratory (RS/GIS Laboratory) at Utah State University to explore the use of airborne LiDAR and multispectral imagery as an alternative to field-based geomorphology and vegetation monitoring.

The mission of the RS/GIS Lab is to integrate state-of-the-art remote sensing technologies with on-the-ground knowledge of ecosystems. Using these technologies, this project will provide park resource managers with detailed spatial data to describe the condition of the riparian ecosystems in their parks.

Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff


Natural Resource Condition Assessment to Evaluate Changes in Gullies and Arroyos at Petroglyph NM

Principal Investigator:

Ted Neff, Archeological Projects

The objectives of NPS Natural Resource Condition Assessments (NRCAs) are to report on the current conditions of important natural resources in parks and the stressors that may be affecting them, as well as to identify critical knowledge gaps that need to be addressed. In a scoping workshop for the NRCA project at Petroglyph NM, park and network staff determined that understanding erosional processes in the monument and how they have altered surface topology and streamflow over time is a primary information need.

Park and network staffs are currently collaborating with staff from the Museum of Northern Arizona to evaluate the use of historical aerial imagery as a tool to document changes in gullies and arroyos at Petroglyph NM. For this project, museum staff measure changes in arroyo erosion at several sites on the monument by analyzing and comparing aerial photography with ground-based arroyo cross-section survey data. In keeping with MNA's mission, the results of this project will provide a greater understanding of how human activity, such as surrounding urban development, may be affecting natural erosional processes in the arid Southwest.

Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff


Bird Community Monitoring

Principal Investigators:

Jennifer Holmes and Matthew Johnson, Avian Ecologists

SCPN, working in partnership with NAU, is monitoring bird communities in several predominant habitats where vegetation monitoring is also being conducted. Investigators Holmes and Johnson have conducted avian research projects throughout the Southwest, including ecological studies of Mexican spotted owl, southwest willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo. The overall purpose of this project is to track the status and trends in composition and abundance of breeding bird communities associated with upland and riparian habitats in SCPN parks.

Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research

Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff


Seventy-five years of Vegetation Change in the Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands of Grand Canyon National Park

Principal Investigators:

John Vankat, Senior Research Ecologist & Neil Cobb, Director, Merriam Powell Center

Grand Canyon National Park has the most extensive set of historical study plots known in the Southwest, which includes 137 plots in pinyon-juniper woodland that were quantitatively sampled as part of a vegetation mapping project conducted in 1935. These plots provide a unique opportunity for understanding long-term changes in pinyon-juniper vegetation.

In this study, Dr. Vankat and his crew located and re-sampled 49 of the accessible historical plots to assess changes in pinyon-juniper woodland composition and structure over the intervening 75 years. The study will enhance our understanding of long-term vegetation dynamics and management in the larger regional landscape of Grand Canyon NP. The USGS-Southwest Biological Science Center is also contributing to this effort.

For a video on earlier work Dr. Vankat completed at Grand Canyon National Park, view the video 70 years of montane forest change in Grand Canyon National Park located on our Multimedia page.

Natural Heritage New Mexico Program

University of New Mexico, Albuquerque


Petroglyph NM Plant Inventory & Herbarium Specimen Review

Principal Investigator:

Esteban Muldavin, Division Leader

One goal of the NPS Inventory and Monitoring program is to document the occurrence of at least 90% of the vascular plants currently estimated to occur in national parks. The recently completed vegetation mapping project for Petroglyph National Monument also provided an opportunity to complete this initial vascular plant inventory at the park. Esteban Muldavin and the Natural Heritage New Mexico (NHNM) staff partnered with the SCPN to complete both projects.

As a portal for the acquisition and dissemination of biodiversity conservation information, NHNM has amassed considerable knowledge about New Mexico ecosystems and species, and makes an ideal partner for these projects. NHNM botanists routinely identified and prepared voucher specimens of the plant species they encountered while surveying field plots for the vegetation map. They targeted additional field studies toward unique plant communities and likely habitats for rare species to complete their inventory. This effort will provide insights into the unique plant communities of the larger Rio Grande Valley ecosystem thus contributing to our understanding of the communities and ecosystems of the Southwest.

Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff


Webmaster Support for the Learning Center of the American Southwest Website

Principal Investigator:

Ron Hiebert, Director, Colorado Plateau CESU

The Learning Center of the American Southwest (LCAS) is a partnership dedicated to understanding and preserving the unique resources of the American Southwest through science and education. This website delivers information about the natural and cultural resources of the region and about scientific activities underway. The primary focus of LCAS is to present the results of research and monitoring to land managers, students, researchers, policy makers, and the interested public, and to promote mission-oriented research within the region.

The website as it exists today evolved as the result of collaborative efforts between NPS Inventory and Monitoring Networks, NPS park units, the Sonoran Institute and several universities of the region. Currently Northern Arizona University provides assistance with website maintenance, content management, documentation and training. Visit the LCAS website to learn about area parks, inventory and monitoring work, and a wide array of interdisciplinary research across the region.

For more information, click here to contact us.

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster