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Priority Research Project Topics

Preference will be given to original proposals that address topics identified below. However, all proposals will be considered based on their merits. In addition, a topic of interest that applies across all areas listed below is comparing OSMP with Colorado and/or the US, helping us place our lands in a broader geographic context.

Top Topics for 2019 (in no particular order)

  • Soundscape research and management: How can we understand, protect, and enjoy acoustic environments? Subtopics of interest include overflights management, consequences of noise to wildlife, and planning for soundscapes protection.
  • What are the comparative effects of different prairie dog relocation methods on native prairie communities? Are there practical and effective alternatives to prairie dog nesting boxes (e.g., directional boring)?
  • How does OSMP contribute to public well-being and quality of life / what is the value generated? (e.g., Psychological, emotional, physical, economical, health, etc.)
  • What are the impacts of commercial mosquito management methods on non-target species in Boulder?
  • Where are nuisance mosquitoes residing and emanating from in Boulder generally and specifically on city property?
  • What are visitor perceptions of crowding? Does the number of encounters matter? 

Additional research topics of interest, by category

Wildlife Ecology

  1. Habitat use and ecology of Preble’s meadow jumping mouse on OSMP, especially as related to influences of land management (grazing, restoration, trail development, etc.).
  2. Investigate nesting success, productivity, and breeding chronology of grassland birds nesting in irrigated hayfields, including impacts of agricultural management on nesting success.
  3. Examine impact of grassland bird closures on reproductive success of grassland birds and/or relationships between grazing and nesting success.
  4. Investigate relationships between wildlife and recreation. This could include potential impacts on spatial or temporal habitat use by native wildlife, impacts of night-time human use on wildlife, impacts of dogs, or changes in wildlife community composition.
  5. Investigate new non-insecticidal control mechanisms for sylvatic plague in prairie dogs.
  6. Do fenced vs. unfenced trail corridors influence grassland bird abundance and / or diversity differently?
  7. Investigate success and feasibility of novel approaches to prairie dog exclusion.
  8. Where are the prime pollinator habitats on city property?
  9. Research related to new or emerging non-lethal tools for prairie dog population management (e.g. contraceptives)

Vegetation Management

  1. What is the influence of trail building and trail use on invasive species spread?
  2. How do we best reclaim degraded lands?
  3. What is the vulnerability of wetland/riparian communities to non-native plant species?
  4. What is the carbon footprint of mechanical vs. herbicide treatments?
  5. How and for what species can remote sensing be used to inventory, map or monitor non-native species on OSMP managed lands?


  1. How can we improve habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects in agricultural fields?
  2. What are the impacts of prairie dogs on soil quality, invasive species, and agricultural yields?
  3. What are the best and most practical methods to enhance soil quality in tilled fields, especially wheat-fallow?

Wetland Ecology

  1. How can we manage hydrologic regimes, including managed water releases, to benefit the aquatic communities?
  2. What are the positive and negative impacts of grazing on plant diversity in wetland and riparian areas?
  3. Investigate and establish methods for successful establishment of cottonwoods from pole cuttings on OSMP-managed lands. 
  4. How vulnerable are OSMP-managed wetlands to climate change?
  5. Establish flow monitoring on various reaches of the South Boulder Creek and correlate flows with environmental and operational information.

Cultural and Scenic Resources

  1. Does publicizing cultural resource presence through signage and interpretation to visitors adversely affect their integrity? Is information availability correlated to integrity in other public lands contexts? Is constraining information available an effective strategy to protect cultural resources?
  2. Who were the people referenced by inscriptions at White Rocks? What are their connections to the Boulder area?
  3. Conduct ethnographic research into use and cultural significance of plants, animals, and other natural features.
  4. Research and document indigenous and/or historic place names of areas and features of Open Space and Mountain Parks lands through interviews with contemporary cultural groups, archival materials, and other sources as appropriate.

Recreation/Visitor Experience

  1. What undesignated trails are well used/unused, and how can this information be used to support a more focused path to either designation or timely closure strategies?
  2. What is the range of visitor travel patterns, where/how far are people going “into” the system, and how long is it taking them to do so?
  3. What are visitor expectations prior to visiting OSMP (what do they expect once they get here), and how are those expectations formed? Are they met?
  4. What are the most effective ways to educate visitors prior to their trip on allowed activities and settings?
  5. How can we best manage visitation and recreation? What can we synthesize from federal agencies like the National Park Service?
  6. Conduct a survey of Colorado Front Range land managers to identify top visitor use issues and successful interagency strategies.

Recreation Ecology

  1. Conduct a literature review of the use-impact relationship for human use and plants and animals on OSMP lands.
  2. Conduct new research on the impacts of visitor use on resources such as plants, wildlife, soils, water quality or insects.

Plant Ecology/Restoration Ecology

  1. How does forest management impact soil moisture and fertility?
  2. How does soil C3/C4 ratio compare to plant community C3/C4 ratio?
  3. Can demographic studies lead to reliable estimates of plant population growth rates?
  4. How can we use LIDAR data to understand fire behavior or forest composition?
  5. Are there genetic changes in native grass cultivars after decades, and if there are, how might those changes effect plant traits that relate to long-term restoration success?
  6. How does soil organic matter content and fertility vary across city property?
  7. Use our newly digitized herbarium to study some aspect of plant geography, ecology or morphology.

Climate Change

  1. Which plant or animal species in Boulder are most vulnerable to climate change and which are most likely to thrive?    
  2. Can we derive downscaled climate projections for use in climate adaptation?
  3. How have vegetation boundaries changed over the last century?
  4. Are there 100-year or 500-year floodplain areas in private ownership that are critical for open space protection?  Would it be long-term cheaper to protect them than to re-build them given climate change projections?

Communication / Outreach

  1. How much does the public trust us in managing the land for the future? Does higher trust make people less likely to engage in public processes?
  2. What is the best way to inform/engage college students in open space engagement efforts? What is the best way to draw their interest? What way is most likely to drive them to engage?