GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - When it comes to mapping the vegetation within the Grand Canyon National Park, Mike Kearsley knows his stuff. As Vegetation Mapping Coordinator for the park service, Kearsley has been working to document the area since 2007, though the project itself has been in existence since 2002. Kearsley will bring his expertise to Northern Arizona University (NAU) tonight for a lecture on the Canyon's vegetation mapping project. The free lecture, entitled "Mapping the Green: Vegetation Mapping at Grand Canyon," will be held at NAU's Cline Library beginning at 7 p.m. as part of the 2010 Grand Canyon Rangers: Conversations on the Edge lecture series.
"I oversee the entire project and work with cooperators and contracts we have who are performing the field work - the actual map creation," Kearsley said. "For example, we had a cooperative agreement with NAU to provide field crews to do the actual sampling on the ground. They collected something like 2,200 plots and then we entered all that data into a database. We're also working with an outfit called NatureServe, who does the classification; they take the data and decided what vegetation class each plot belongs to. We're not trying to map each individual plant, we're looking at communities."
Kearsley said he would bring a number of topics with him to the lecture.
"What I will do is introduce the vegetation of Grand Canyon, why it's important to map it and why it's interesting. I will talk a little bit about how this project fits into Grand Canyon Park management's information and the national mapping program. I will also talk about methods, how you go about doing something like this, on a scale of 1.5 million acres, and then I will show different types of vegetation that the crews have encountered in their travels. Vegetation is a part of Grand Canyon that most people don't pay a lot of attention to, though it's pretty cool, so this will be an introduction," Kearsley said.
While this is his first lecture in the ranger series, Kearsley is no stranger to speaking, or NAU for that matter. Before working for the National Park Service, he was employed at the university and taught classes there. He moved to northern Arizona in 1982, after getting his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He earned his master's degree and Ph.D. at NAU and worked as a research associate for 15 years. Kearsley also instructed a biostatistics class at the university. He currently lives in Flagstaff with his wife, Lisa, and two sons, Ian and Jak.
Kearsley said the mapping project at the Canyon is still years away from completion, though phase one of the project is under way.
"The first phase, which is the rim areas, that should be completed this July. Phase two, which is the eastern heart of the Canyon, should be done the following year, in July of 2011. The final phase, which is all the western Canyon and parts of Lake Meade, should be done the year after that," Kearsley said. "The project is actually vegetation classification and mapping. There are two phases. We first sample all the different types of plant communities that we can find and we classify them. There's a national standard that we use to classify the vegetation. Once we know what's out there, in terms of what kinds of communities are out there, then we map them."
Speakers for the 2010 Ranger Lecture Series include Kearsley, Archeologist Ian Hough, Hydrologist Steve Rice, and Wildlife/Human Interactions Biologist Brandon Holton. All of the lectures will be held at Cline Library on the campus of Northern Arizona University (NAU). The library is located on the corner of Knoles Drive and McCreary Road. Parking for the lectures can be found on Riordan Road in the P13 lot.
Hough kicked the lecture off Feb. 3. Kearsley's presentation will be the second in the series. "Native Waters: Springs and Seeps of the Grand Canyon National Park" will be hosted by Rice on April 7 from 7-8:30 p.m. On May 5, the series will wrap up with Holton's lecture entitled, "The Canyon's Lions: Mountain Lion Ecology Research in Grand Canyon National Park," will be held from 7-8:30 p.m.
The Conversations on the Edge lecture series, which first began in 2009, is offered through a joint partnership with the Grand Canyon Association, the Grand Canyon National Park and NAU.