Cycles of life and landscape : interpreting the geological foundation of Shenandoah National Park Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/1544br80j

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  • The significance of geology is commonly overlooked by the general public and underrepresented in free-choice learning environments including national parks that exhibit spectacular examples of geological features and processes. Parks are a major contributor to public learning, and a key way to teach how geology influences many aspects of our lives. Shenandoah National Park represents a snapshot of over a billion years of Earth's history. Phases of continental rifting and collision that formed the Appalachian Mountains reflect multiple "Wilson Cycles" of opening and closing ocean basins. Shenandoah's spectacular landscape is a product of past and ongoing geological processes that strongly influence the park's flora, fauna, and cultural history. Interpreting this landscape presents opportunities to increase public science literacy and draw attention to national parks as natural geological classrooms. By developing a geology-based training manual for Shenandoah National Park rangers, this thesis aims to increase ranger knowledge of the geological history of the Appalachian Mountains and thereby increase their ability to educate visitors about stories of the past, present, and future that these mountains have to tell. This thesis is the precursor to a condensed geology training manual for the interpretive staff at Shenandoah National Park. The thesis is intended as a more in-depth reference for park rangers to help them better understand the significance of Shenandoah's geology. Its format and content have been guided by the results of an informal survey of the park's interpretive staff and two seasons of employment with the National Park Service (NPS) as a Shenandoah interpretive ranger. The thesis is broken into five primary sections. The first two discuss the big-picture geological story of the Appalachian Mountains, putting the geology of Shenandoah National Park into a broader context. The third and fourth sections zoom in on Shenandoah, revealing specific links between the park's geologic features and other aspects of it's natural and cultural history. A final section reviews basic principles of NPS interpretation and discusses how park rangers can incorporate geology into their educational programs. As interpreters, national park rangers have the ability to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public. So often, important concepts that are explained by scientists do not reach the public because the public and the scientific community use two very different languages. Interpreters are the go-between. By speaking the language of both the scientist and the common public, interpreters can breach the language barrier and by doing so, greatly improve public science literacy, influence public policy, and increase environmental awareness. It is my hope that this thesis and the associated training manual will be used as an interpretive tool. By incorporating aspects of Shenandoah's fascinating geological story into their programs, park rangers can inspire the public to make intellectual and emotional connections to our country's natural history and its meanings. Ultimately, this will lead to greater appreciation and protection of our national park resources.
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