Joshua Tree National Park’s wildlife ecologist, Michael Vamstad, travelled to Lima, Peru as part of an Embassy Science Fellowship this past fall. These fellowships are to assist foreign countries with expertise and to encourage bilateral collaboration on scientific, technological, environmental or health issues. The Embassy Science Fellows program has contributed to policy development and collaboration with host governments, universities and other organizations.
Michael’s fellowship began by working with the managers at El Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas por el Estado. Also known as SERNANP, it is the Peruvian governmental agency much like National Park Service in the United States. Although small in comparison to the National Park system, many of the goals of preservation and protection are the same. Peru is incredibly diverse with protected areas in the Amazon basin rainforests as well as in one of the driest deserts in the world, the Atacama. In all, just over 17% (48 million acres) of the country is under protection with 6% being National Parks.
One of Michael’s tasks was to review the research permitting process in Peruvian Protected Natural Areas (ANPs). This plan included a comprehensive examination of the permitted research in ANPs from the previous five years and then made recommendations for improvement. Michael also reviewed the process for applying for research permits and looked for opportunities where it could be improved and made more efficient.
Michael also provided the management at SERNANP with recommendations relating to designing a research application website and ways to determine limits on specimen collecting by scientists. Finally, Michael reviewed a draft research guide and translated the guide into English to promote understanding of the process for foreign, non-Spanish speaking researchers looking to do projects in Peruvian ANPs.
In all, the fellowship was productive not only with the exchange of ideas regarding the management of scientific research between the National Park Service and SERNANP, but also to build on a cooperation regarding land management goals and the preservation of some of the world’s most precious natural areas.
Michael Vamstad has been working at Joshua Tree National Park in southern California since 2004. He started working for the park as the restoration ecologist and made the move to the park’s wildlife ecologist in 2007. While working for the National Park Service, Michael has been involved with many aspects of natural resource management including desert tortoise research, fire ecology, writing resource management plans, coordinating compliance activities and reviewing research applications.
Michael received his undergraduate degree in field biology and for over eight years he worked on seasonal research projects in California, Arizona, Rhode Island, Guam and Baja California, Mexico. While working for Joshua Tree National Park, he attended graduate school at the University of California – Riverside. In 2009, Michael received his Masters degree in Ecology by completing a thesis on small mammal and vegetation responses from wildfire. He has authored and co-authored professional journal articles on fire ecology, climate change monitoring strategies and climate change effects on desert plants and animals.
Michael is the son of Stuart and Patty Vamsted, Darlington and graduated from Darlington High School in 1992.