Volunteer project on OSMP

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, anackerb@bouldercolorado.gov.

Science Highlights from OSMP

Occasional highlights from the staff at OSMP. For more information on any of these items, reach out to Brian, anackerb@bouldercolorado.gov.

  • Oct 1, 2021. New paper on OSMP grassland plant diversity and soil Carbon. Big bluestem is correlated with large stores of soil Carbon. Open access available at Oecologia.

  • July 13, 2021. ‘Look in your backyard’: Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks sponsors research projects. New article in the Daily Camera on OSMP's learning laboratory approach to conservation. Read about it at the Daily Camera.

  • July 12, 2021. New paper on bats and prairie dogs. Paper shows that insectivorous bats are attracted to prairie dog colonies due to their open nature and insect abundance. Learn more at the Journal of Zoology.

  • May 14 , 2021. New paper on the influence of human activity on wildlife. Paper includes OSMP's Will Keeley as a coauthor. Check it out at the Ecosphere journal.

  • May 3, 2021. Journey into the Heart of OSMP's Learning Lab. Follow the paths of funded researchers as they explore the complex interactions of people, wildlife, and environment on OSMP's lands at our new Learning Lab Story Map.

  • Feb 22, 2021. 2021 Grant Winners Announced. The City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Department funds scientific inquiry on OSMP lands on an annual cycle. The 2021 grant recipients have proposed exciting research on wildfire, harmful algal blooms, ants, and more. Funded Research Program.

  • Feb 19, 2021. We have decided to cancel the 2021 edition of the Front Range Open Space Research Symposium. We are planning to bring it back in April of 2022.

  • Jan 13, 2021. 12 publications in 2 years! Independent researchers and OSMP staff have combined their efforts and produced 12 new publications in the last 2 years. See updated section of this site below.

  • 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.

  • 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?

A Learning Laboratory

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NCAR view

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.

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 www.volunteerosmp.org 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.

Science Resources

Conduct Research

Access and Explore Data

Peer-Reviewed Publications Since 2019

  • Anacker et al. 2021. Soil carbon and plant richness relationships differ among grassland types, disturbance history and plant functional groups. Oecologia 196: 1153-1166
  • Adams. 2021. Do black-trailed prairie dog colonies attract foraging bats? Journal of Zoology 315: 156-163
  • Lewis et al. 2021. Human activity influences wildlife populations and activity patterns: implications for spatial and temporal refuges. Ecosphere 12:e03487
  • Wynveen et al. 2021. Research Note: Adherence to physical distancing guidelines on urban recreational trails during a pandemic. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration.
  • Hoffman et al. 2020. Genetic and functional variation across regional and local scales is associated with climate in a foundational prairie grass: Blue grama study is associated with climate in a foundational prairie grass. New Phytologist 227: 352-364.
  • Bahadur et al. 2020. Livestock grazing is associated with seasonal reduction in pollinator biodiversity and functional dispersion but cheatgrass invasion is not: Variation in bee assemblages in a multi-use shortgrass prairie. Plos One.
  • Covy et al. 2020. Cliff-Dwelling Bird Species Show Variable Behavioral Responses to Rock Climbing. Natural Areas Journal.
  • Davis et al. 2020. Effects of fire and thinning disturbances on biodiversity of wild bee communities in the Front Range of Colorado. BCPOS.
  • Ferraro D et al. 2020. The phantom chorus: birdsong boosts human well-being in protected areas. Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
  • Haworth et al. 2020. Native fish loss in a transition-zone stream following century-long habitat alterations and nonnative species introductions. Western North American Naturalist.
  • Heindel et al. 2020. Atmospheric dust deposition varies by season and elevation in the Colorado Front Range, USA. JGR Earth Science.
  • Prinster et al. 2020. Weather variation affects the dispersal of grasshoppers beyond their elevational ranges. Ecology and Evolution.
  • Covy et al. 2019. Rock climbing activity and physical habitat attributes impact avian community diversity in cliff environments. PLoS ONE
  • Rice et al. 2019. Detailing an Approach for Cost-Effective Visitor-Use Monitoring Using Crowdsourced Activity Data. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration.
  • Rodman et al. 2019. Wildfire activity and land use drove 20th-century changes in forest cover in the Colorado front range. Ecosphere.
  • Romo et al. 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.

Reports