Climbers to help scientists with Yosemite lichen project

Mountain Protection

The National Park Service (NPS) in Yosemite, United States, is asking climbers for help with a study of lichens growing on big rock faces. Those who volunteer for one or more days between September 1- 21 will get free camping, experience with field work and the chance to meet up with other climbers.

“Every climber knows how the colour and texture of rock faces can be critically dependent on the lichens spreading over their surface,” says Dave Morris, president of the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission. “This is a great opportunity for climbers to learn more about the mountain environment and demonstrate how climbing and conservation can work together.”

Lichens are excellent indicators of ecosystem health, particularly air and water quality and climate change. Therefore the Lichen Inventory Project will help the NPS to better understand and respond to threats to the national park.

All qualified climbers can volunteer, but the project may be particularly interesting for those who have a background in biology.

The advantage of having mountaineers help with the project as “citizen scientists” is that they are able to collect samples and make observations where no one else can. The project was started last year, and is a good example of how the climbing community and conservationists can work together. This kind of co-operation does not usually get a lot of attention, but the organisers say that National Geographic may report on the project.

September is considered the best month for climbing in Yosemite, giving everyone the chance to combine volunteer work with a climbing holiday. Participants will get free camping near Sentinel. “This project occurs just before the annual Yosemite Facelift which attracts hundreds of climbers, so it is a great way to network with fellow climbers from around the world,” says Linda McMillan from the American Alpine Club.

If you would like to volunteer, please email McMillan at Linda @ for more information and to let her know which dates you want to participate.