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Science at OSMP

Researchers counting deer pellets


Welcome to the Science at OSMP website! This page provides an introduction to how OSMP uses science, spotlights exciting research projects, shares updates, and links to science resources. Please share any feedback with Brian Anacker, [email protected].

A Learning Laboratory

OSMP takes a learning laboratory approach to conservation and recreation. Each year, we undertake dozens of monitoring projects, sponsor up to 10 research grants, and issue 30-50 research permits. There is also considerable community interest in citizen science programs and finding out more about the state of OSMP natural resources. The science we conduct is largely underpinned by four key resource plans (Agricultural Resources Management Plan, Grassland Ecosystems Management Plan, Forest Ecosystems Management Plan, and the Visitor Master Plan) as well as the OSMP Master Plan.

tall oatgrass fence

Some features of our "living laboratory" include:

  • Over 400 Research Reports: OSMP staff have worked with independent researchers to conduct extensive studies to help manage and improve Boulder's open space. Independent Research Reports.
  • Biodiversity Hotspot: The ecosystems of OSMP are known to support 1061 species of vascular plants, 45 mammals, 308 birds, 132 butterflies, 22 reptiles and amphibians, and 34 fish.
  • Recreation Hotspot: OSMP lands surround the City of Boulder, and OSMP provides access via a network of 150+ miles of trails which receive over 6 million recreation visits per year.
  • Soil Health Research: OSMP is exploring opportunities to sequester carbon in soils and help the city meet its climate goals.
  • Expert Staff: Over 20 trained scientists working across many disciplines.
  • Grants:  Each year, we offer up to 10 grants to scientists. Check out our Funded Research Program linked below.
  • Research Permits: You can apply to conduct unfunded research on OSMP lands through our Research Permits Program, linked below.
  • Agency Partners: Boulder County Parks and Open Space, Jefferson County Open Space, and CPW extend research opportunities.
  • University Partners: Faculty and students from CU Boulder, CU Denver, and CSU are regular research partners.
  • Citizen Science: OSMP has several opportunities for volunteers to contribute to scientific projects, including monitoring bats, hayfield birds, and raptors. Please visit to learn more.

To find out more about our learning laboratory, check out our presentation to the Open Space Board of Trustees from December 2019. pdf

Science Highlights from OSMP

Occasional highlights from the staff at OSMP. For more information on any of these items, reach out to Brian, [email protected].

  • May 11, 2020. New Visitation Dashboard. OSMP has launched a new visitation data explorer that shows visitation levels at 11 access points. The data is updated daily.
  • Feb 21, 2020. 2020 Grant Winners Announced. The City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Department funds scientific inquiry on OSMP lands on an annual cycle. The 2020 grant recipients have proposed exciting research on climate change, prairie dogs, visitation, and more. Funded Research Program Funded Projects.
  • Feb 19, 2020. Plant Phenology Report Released. Phenology is the study of recurring events in nature, such as plant bud burst and flowering, and is considered an excellent indicator of climate change. Working with volunteers, OSMP tracked the timing of leaf out and flowering of woody plants species over two years. Now you can read all about it.
  • Sep 20, 2019. CU Graduate Student Wins Grant to Fund Grassland Research on OSMP Land. Julie Larson, a graduate student at CU Boulder, was awarded a fellowship from USDA to continue her research on OSMP grasslands. This project was initiated by a small grant from OSMP's Funded Research Program. The work was recently described in the article Pushing Boundaries: USDA fellowship funds study of Front Range grasslands in CU Boulder Today Magazine.
  • Sep 20, 2019. New Paper on North American Bird decline. This new paper documents the decline of North American birds, describing the loss of 3 billion birds in North America since 1970. Audubon article  Science Magazine
  • Jul 25, 2019. New open dataset cataloguing mammals on City of Boulder Open Data. New dataset! OSMP Mammal Species List. Open Data Catalog
  • Aug 15, 2019. CU Boulder Professor Wins Grant to Conduct Soil Research on OSMP. Jason Neff of CU Boulder was awarded a large grant from the National Science Foundation for his research project entitled "Detecting soil degradation and restoration through a novel coupled sensor and machine learning framework." One of his research sites will be on OSMP lands.
  • Jun 26, 2019. Soil Research Article in the Colorado Sun. Read about an experiment on OSMP land to rebuild soils and draw down Carbon from the atmosphere. Acres of barren Boulder soil are headed to rehab (and that might just help fight climate change).
  • Jun 21, 2019. Research on the History of Apples in Boulder Featured on Science Friday. Former OSMP grant recipient Katie Suding from CU Boulder interviewed on Science Friday. Uncovering A Colorado Apple Mystery
  • May 15, 2019. How Does Rock Climbing Impact Birds? New publication translates a recent publication by OSMP scientist Will Keeley into a kid-friendly format. Check it out.
  • April 9, 2019. Mule Deer Research Covered by High Country News. OSMP staff research was recently profiled in High Country News. The disease devastating deer herds may also threaten human health? 

Science Resources

Conduct Research

Access and Explore Data

Peer-Reviewed Publications Since 2019

  • OSMP Staff (in bold)

    • Romo, AB, BD Taff, B Lawhon, VanderWoude, P Newman, A Graefe, F Schwartz (2019) Dog owners’ perceptions and behaviors related to the disposal of pet waste in City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration. doi: 10.18666/JPRA-2019-9059

    • Covy N, L Benedict, WH Keeley (2019) Rock climbing activity and physical habitat attributes impact avian community diversity in cliff environments. PLoS ONE 14(1): e0209557.

  • Independent Researchers

    • Rice, WL, JT Mueller, AR Graefe, BD Taff (2019) Detailing an Approach for Cost-Effective Visitor-Use Monitoring Using Crowdsourced Activity Data. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration. doi: 10.18666/JPRA-2019-8998
    • ​Rodman, KC, TT Veblen, S Saraceni, TB Chapman (2019) Wildfire activity and land use drove 20th-century changes in forest cover in the Colorado front range. Ecosphere 10(2):e02594. 10.1002/ecs2.2594