Conducting research within a unit of the National Park Service (NPS) presents the opportunity to both advance scientific knowledge and to serve as a steward by protecting natural and cultural resources for future generations. All science and research activities occurring at ZION are authorized with a Scientific Research and Collecting Permit. In addition to providing invaluable knowledge to park administrators for decision-making purposes, research permits are required to ensure that the values of the park, the visitor experience, and park resources remain intact. A Principle Investigator (PI) may Request a Permit by submitting an application through the Research Permit and Reporting System (RPRS) as accessed through the Integrated Resource Management Application (IRMA) web portal.
Prior to submitting an application, every PI is encouraged to become acquainted with the IRMA Data Store and NPS LIBRIS to access recent NPS research and resource management projects as well as the information available on NPS Natural Resources, Cultural Resources, and Social Sciences. It is imperative that PIs are familiar with NPS Director’s Order 79: Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities as well as the RPRS application guidelines provided in the RPRS Help menu, specifically Investigator Help. Reporting and curation requirements must also be observed by each PI to preserve research efforts, obtain annual NPS approval for ongoing research activities, as well as to provide public access to research data and analyses. Use the dropdown menu below to navigate to RPRS process guidance and criteria.
A Scientific Research and Collecting Permit is required for most scientific activities pertaining to natural resources or social science in NPS areas that involve fieldwork, specimen collection, and/or have the potential to disturb resources or visitors. RPRS is the online system that manages the research application and reporting process for the NPS. See RPRS FAQs for more information. Application Procedures & Requirements lists some of the predisposing factors that influence the permit determination. PIs should anticipate applying to allow sufficient time for the review process, which may require 30 to 120 days to finalize depending on the complexity of the proposed research. Internal review by the ZION interdisciplinary team, or RPRS Committee, will only begin once a complete application package is received by the ZION RPRS Coordinator. A complete application package includes:
Applications for a Scientific Research and Collecting Permit must include a research proposal. Guidelines to Researchers for Study Proposals neatly outlines research proposal requirements and provides the required Study Proposal format to ensure regulatory mandate are met as well as to expedite the internal review process. Rather than removing sections of the template, Study Proposal headings that are not a part of your research should be marked as “Not Applicable”
An acceptable Study Proposal also includes Qualifications, two (2) letters of Peer Support, and, where applicable, Maps & Spatial Data. It is especially important to provide a Budget detailing expected funding sources, and plans for the costs associated with cataloging and long-term curation of any specimens collected.
Qualifications may be integrated into the Study Proposal or provided separately as supplemental documentation. Qualifications should include a background summary or curriculum vitae for the PI and all other investigators listed in the proposal. It is important to identify training and qualifications relevant to the proposed research and their ability to conduct field activities in the environment of the proposed study area. A description of previous research and collecting in NPS areas, including study and permit numbers, is also valuable.
Two letters of academic or peer support from an advisor, colleagues, and/or a supervisor are to be included as a part of the Study Proposal. Support letters should discuss:
All GIS products must adhere to NPS Core Spatial Data Standards and contain Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) compliant metadata. A topographic map(s) with geographic coordinates of the proposed research area(s), anticipated access routes, sample collection sites/plots, and basic cartographic elements must be projected using the UTM (Zone 12) NAD 83 coordinate system and a USGS 7.5-minute basemap. Submit Study Proposal maps in a (.jpg) or (.pdf) format as well as the associated spatial data. Geospatial information, shapefiles (.shp) or geodatabases (.gbd), should be zipped (.zip) prior to submission. Study proposal maps must contain the following cartographic elements:
To assist in map preparation, refer to:
Supplemental Permitting & Approvals
Some research activities may require additional permits of approvals by other governing bodies before the NPS can issue a permit for research in a park unit. Supplemental NPS Permits or approvals may also be required depending on the proposed research activities. Examples include research on live animals, surveys with human participants requiring approval by an Institutional Review Board, research on migratory birds requiring approval by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and research on state or federally listed species of concern.
All archeological fieldwork in national parks requires an NPS Permit for Archaeological Investigations. Investigators working on NPS archeology projects under contract or cooperative agreement may be exempted from Scientific Research and Collecting Permit requirements. However, archeological studies that involve sampling or measuring natural resources require a Scientific Research and Collecting Permit in addition to an NPS Archaeological Investigations Permit. Further, activities that are associated with archeological projects on parklands but that are not a component of the research project may require an NPS Special Use Permit (SUP). For example, SUPs may be issued for establishment of a camp associated with the excavation or survey. A SUP may also be needed for project-related activities such as water-screening of archeological samples. Visit the NPS Archeology Guide to learn more.
Many scientific research activities involve collecting specimens that will be maintained permanently in appropriate NPS or non-NPS museum repositories. Some research results may generate progeny or derivatives that also will be maintained in repositories for living collections. For these reasons, the ZION Museum Curator works closely with the ZION RPRS Coordinator to administer scientific research. In these instances, it is of particular importance to provide a budget in your Study Proposal detailing expected funding sources and plans for the costs associated with cataloging and long-term curation of any specimens collected.
A PI proposing specimen handling and/or collection will have a Handling and Collecting Agreement automatically generated as a part of the RPRS application. This agreement requires a signature from the PI before a permit is considered valid. A PI requesting permission to collect specimens for permanent retention in whole or in part and requesting that the specimens and/or material originating from such specimens be loaned by the NPS to a repository that is not administered by the NPS must also complete an Appendix A: Proposed Repository for Collected Specimens form for each non-NPS institution proposed to receive loaned specimens or material originating from such specimens. Similarly, the Appendix A form is automatically generated as part of an the RPRS application. If collected materials will be destroyed in their entirety during research, an Appendix A may not required, but PIs will still need to complete a Handling and Collecting Agreement. Visit Researcher Resources for Specimen Collection and Obtain an Appendix A Signature to learn more. Note that all specimens collected and material originating from such specimens remain Federal property in perpetuity, and may not be loaned to a third party, discarded, or destroyed without prior written NPS permission. Refer to Final Report & Curation for additional information.
Social science researchers conducting surveys in which 10 or more members of the public (park visitors, potential park visitors, and residents of communities near parks) will be asked the same set of questions and in which the NPS sponsors the research must get approval from the Federal Government Office of Management and Budget (OMB). NPS sponsorship is not limited to financial support and may include in-kind support, assistance with survey administration, involvement in development of survey instruments, etc. Studies in which information about people is collected only through observation are exempt from this requirement. Depending on the park, survey research may also require the Scientific Research and Collecting Permit mentioned above. Researchers who wish to conduct a study that requires OMB approval must submit a package of information to the NPS Social Science Division at least 60 days before the survey is to be administered. Visit NPS Social Science and Collecting Information FAQs to learn more.
Institutional Review Board (IRB)
For all research involving human participants, please contact your institution’s IRB for submission requirements. The PI must submit the associated IRB approval or exemption as a part of the RPRS Application Package in addition to any surveys, questionnaires, interviews, or other standardized documentation used as a part of the proposed research.
Investigators seeking authorization to operate an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in conjunction with their proposed research must complete a research application process that includes consideration by the ZION Aviation Manager, ZION Superintendent, National NPS Aviation Manager, Regional NPS Aviation Manager, and is approved by the NPS Regional Director. Before pursuing a drone permit to fly within the park, it is important for the PI to understand alternatives to conducting research within a national park or wilderness areas. Lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service often reside adjacent to many NPS units, are often comparable in research opportunities, and do not require special permitting for UAS use. To obtain an NPS UAS Permit:
ZION is one of 50 national park units that contains designated NPS Wilderness. The vast majority of ZION is managed to preserve wilderness character as stipulated in the ZION Wilderness Stewardship Plan. PIs and all research team members are encouraged to review the NPS America’s Wilderness video, the Leave No Trace Seven Principles, Outdoor Ethics video, as well as complete the Leave No Trace Online Awareness Course prior to applying to conduct research in wilderness areas. Completion of these trainings by the PI and associated research team should be documented in the Qualifications section of the Study Proposal.
When proposing to conduct research within ZION Wilderness, the PI must submit a Wilderness Access Request. This request must demonstrate dependence on wilderness and focus on why wilderness is a necessary component of the proposed research. All maps associated with research proposed in wilderness areas must also include the ZION Wilderness boundary. The information provided in the Wilderness Access Request will be used by the ZION interdisciplinary team and Wilderness Committees to complete a Minimum Requirement Analysis (MRA) prior to issuing a research permit determination. In addition to a RPRS Permit, a ZION Wilderness Permit is also required for all overnight, backcountry fieldwork. Upon receiving a favorable RPRS permit determination, the PIs information will be automatically forwarded to the ZION Wilderness Coordinator in effort to streamline permit processes. For successful research permit applicants requesting access to Wilderness, Park Specific Research Conditions require the research team to carry out the following mitigations prior to and throughout each research trip to ZION:
Prior to the onset of research, all research team members will
Throughout the research effort, all team members will
State of Utah Certificate of Registration
Certain wildlife related activities require special permits call Certificates of Registration (COR) with the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (UDWR). Information and application forms for common CORs may be located on UDWR Wildlife website under Licenses. The Banding, collection, depredation, salvage COR is most commonly used in conjunction with the NPS Scientific Research and Collecting Permit at ZION.
NPS: Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)
The NPS is responsible for ensuring that all activities involving the use of vertebrate animals in NPS units are conducted in accordance with Animal Welfare Act and corresponding regulations. The NPS Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) provides oversight for the humane care and use of wild, vertebrate animals and provides guidance to promote animal welfare, human and animals’ safety, and scientific integrity. Visit NPS IACUC and the Fact Sheet to learn more. Specific NPS curatorial conditions and repositories may apply when proposing to collect animal tissues, to include blood. Refer to Final Report & Curation for more details.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Migratory Birds: The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for an individual to take possess, import export, transport, sell, purchase, barter or offer for sale, or purchase, any migratory bird, or the nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations. Permits enable the public to engage in legitimate wildlife-related activities that would otherwise be prohibited by law. USFWS Service permit programs ensure that such activities are carried out in a manner that safeguards wildlife. Additionally, some permits promote conservation efforts by authorizing scientific research, generating data, or allowing wildlife management and rehabilitation activities to go forward.
Threatened and Endangered Species: The Endangered Species Act protects T&E species and is designed to regulate a wide range of activities affecting plants and animals designated as endangered or threatened, and the habitats upon which they depend. With some exceptions, the ESA prohibits activities affecting these protected species and their habitats unless authorized by a permit from the USFWS.
RPRS Application Package Submission
All prospective PIs should follow Instructions for Researchers to Create New User Account and initiate a research request. PIs proposing to conduct research in multiple NPS units must submit a RPRS application to each unit. An individual determination will be provided by each NPS unit. If a favorable determination is reached, Scientific Research and Collecting Permits are issued for one calendar year and expire on or before December 31st. This means an RPRS application must be submitted each calendar year research activities are proposed.
PIs are frequently professors, PhD candidates, or a research institution affiliate. As an undergraduate or graduate student, your major professor should be listed as the PI and yourself as a co-investigator. At least one co-investigator must also be listed who would retain access to the research files. If you are conducting independent research, this may be an individual associated with your institution such as a supervisor, dean, or museum curator. The Agent Role Service allows a PI to establish an agent to assist in the application and related reporting requirements. The Investigator Account Data Transfer Service also provides the mechanism to convey responsibilities of a study from one investigator to another. PIs are encouraged to populate the seven RPRS application fields using details from the Study Proposal:
Provide a brief description of the proposed research by discussing scientific relevance of the subject, study objectives, and specify anticipated field activities. Provide or actualize proposed schedules denoted for a multi-year study. Ensure the appropriate elements of the Study Proposal are selected to notify the ZION RPPS Coordinator of the potential complexities as well as to automatically generate supplemental approvals, namely the Handling and Collecting Agreement and Appendix A. RPRS submissions that do not capture the full scope of the elements included in the Study Proposal will be returned to the Investigator Dashboard panel under “Applications: Drafted but Not Yet Submitted” without further review. Note that the Study Title and Purpose of Study should remain constant throughout the research period for multi-year studies.
Provide a detailed description involving the method of transportation, the routes, and study site within the park. General locale and access points (parking areas, trail names, etc.) should be used to convey the research areas of interest as supported in the Study Proposal. If a multi-year study, provide updated maps and spatial data for additional areas or changes to the original areas proposed.
“Study Starts” and “Estimated entire Study Ends” dates should comprehensively capture the length of the study from development to analyses through to final reporting and/or publication. “Field Schedule Start” and “Field Schedule End” dates should capture the expected time period research activities will occur for the calendar year. Select “yes” if the study is anticipated to occur over the course of multiple years. Select “no” if the study will be completed within a single year. An example of RPRS permit application “3. Dates” follows:
Study Starts: 11/15/2021
Field Schedule Start: 04/05/2022
Field Schedule End: 08/10/2022
Estimated entire Study Ends: 12/31/2024
All research team members, to include field or laboratory assistants, should be listed as co-investigators. At least one co-investigator is required for all applications. Remember, a PI may also choose to assign select research team members an Agent Role to help manage the RPRS account. PIs collaborating on research with ZION staff are required to list the primary park collaborator as one of their Agents.
All anticipated data and materials collections must be identified in the Study Proposal as deliverables during the application process. Deliverables may include but are not limited to analyses, field notes, reports, publications, surveys, questionnaires, theses, presentations, databases, photos, maps, recordings, and specimens or samples. Data and materials (to include all specimens, derivative and byproducts) will remain property of the U.S. Government and be dedicated to the benefit of the public by making them accessible in accordance with NPS policies and procedures via the IRMA Datastore. Specimens that are not destroyed during analysis are required to be accessioned and catalogued into the NPS Interior Collection Management System (ICMS) and bear NPS accession and catalog numbers in Non-NPS repositories. Visit Researcher Resources for Specimen Collection to learn more.
The “Study Proposal File” includes all application documents: study proposal, maps, qualifications, and support letters. Upload all supplemental approvals and authorizations under “Relevant Documents & Files.” All applicable application package documents must be uploaded using the following naming nomenclature DocumentType_NPSUnitAbbreviation_Year_PILastName&FirstInitial. An example of the file naming nomenclature follows:
Study Proposal File
A notification will be automatically sent to the ZION RPRS Coordinator once the PI submits an application through RPRS. In the event RPRS fails to upload attachments, the application package may also be submitted directly to the ZION RPRS Coordinator via email. Incomplete applications will be returned to the PI in RPRS and may be accessed from the Investigator Dashboard panel labeled “Applications: Drafted but Not Yet Submitted.” The ZION RPRS Coordinator will contact the PI directly to request clarification and provide feedback on specific aspects of the RPRS Application Package.
Once a complete application package is received, the ZION RPRS Coordinator will consult with an interdisciplinary team of park staff and subject-area experts, or the RPRS Review Committee, to ensure that the proposed research is scientifically valid, will not harm natural or cultural resources, will not unduly affect park visitors or staff, follows the appropriate policies and conditions, and can be conducted safely. Correspondence between the PI and ZION RPRS Coordinator is common throughout the review processes to obtain signatures, collect outstanding detail, and communicate points of clarification requested by the RPRS Committee. Once the ZION Review Committee review the research permit and a determination has been reached, the ZION RPRS Coordinator will notify the PI directly. The following criteria are used to evaluate Study Proposals:
PIs holding a valid Scientific Research and Collecting Permit must ensure to uphold and communicate the NPS General and ZION Park-Specific permit conditions to the research team. Refer to the Permit Holder Guides to Field Work Check In & Check Out Services for more information. You may submit a Field Check-In and Check-Out form with your Investigators Annual Report (IAR).
Upon arrival to ZION, be sure to present your permit at the entrance station to receive an entry fee waiver and carry a copy of your permit at all times. The research team must wear agency and/or institutional apparel to facilitate identification by NPS staff and visitors. If planning to use ZION campgrounds, remember that the regular time limits and fees apply to researchers. Most frontcountry campsites require advanced reservations and stays may total no more than fourteen (14) days. A Wilderness Permit is required for any overnight backcountry fieldwork. Upon receiving a favorable permit determination, the PIs information will be automatically forwarded to the ZION Wilderness Coordinator. If available, fee-free administrative lodging and/or camping may be granted to PIs collaborating directly with ZION staff on park management research priorities. Refer to ZION Research Preferences for more details.
The Investigator Annual Report (IAR) provides the opportunity for the NPS to reengage with PIs within an established timeframe to maintain a consistent history of scientific research and education accomplishments. The NPS frequently uses IARs to track research status, findings, and define any anticipated modifications to research activities recurring annually. These reports also allow NPS staff to minimize localized conflicts or adverse impacts to natural and cultural resources, visitors, and other research efforts as well as to identify potential opportunities for collaboration or synergies with other efforts across the National Park System. All Scientific Research and Collecting Permit holders are required to submit an IAR each calendar year for every individual NPS unit where research activities are performed. IARs are due 90 days following the completion of annual research activities or no later than March 31st of the following calendar year, whichever comes first. If no activity associated with a permit is undertaken during the specified calendar year, submit an IAR that states such and explain why research has been delayed or canceled. Detailed instructions on how to Submit an IAR may be located under the Investigator Help menu.
IARs should be submitted in a format suitable for publication on the NPS IRMA Data Store portal. Incomplete IARs will be returned to a PI with guidance on requirements outstanding. An acceptable IAR includes an abstract or brief summary of the research objectives, accomplishments, preliminary findings or discoveries, lessons learned, and status of the scientific study for the reporting year. A narrative of the research activities conducted and/or any activities carried out to maintain installations and/or equipment located within the specified NPS unit should also be provided. PIs are reminded to include favorable or problematic aspects of the research and any mitigations implemented or changes should also be included. If specimens are being collected, PI are to discuss how and where their specimens are being stored, cataloging status, and funding involved for the calendar year.
Additionally, all supporting data collected or questionnaires conducted during the specified calendar year should be uploaded when a PI submits an IAR. This may include but is not limited to raw data, analyses, field notes, reports, publications, surveys, questionnaires, theses, presentations, databases, photos, maps, recordings, specimens/samples, etc. Refer to Final Report & Curation for more information. If a PI was unable to utilize the Field Check-In and Check-out service provided in the PIs permit profile to record fieldwork details, Permittee Field Check-In and Check-Out forms must be uploaded with your IAR. Refer to the Permit Holder Guides to Field Work Check In & Check Out Services for more information. Note that it is important to AVOID including personal identifiable information and/or spatial data that could potentially jeopardize the security of sensitive resources (endangered plants, archaeological sites, fossils, caves, etc.). Contact the ZION RPRS Coordinator to arrange a secure transfer. Applicable specimen curation requirements must be met before an IAR is accepted by the NPS and assigned as “complete.”
Reoccurring research or field activities that are anticipated to ensue over the course of multiple calendar years are likely to require annual approval from each NPS unit where research activities are carried out. Unless prior arrangements are made, RPRS permits expire on December 31st each calendar year which means most Scientific Research and Collecting Permits are no longer valid after this date. To be eligible for permit renewal, all terms and conditions stipulated in the NPS RPRS Permit and/or Wilderness Permit must be adhered to. All annual reporting requirements must also be satisfied prior to any reissuance.
To renew your permit and expedite applications for multi-year studies, directions on how to Use an Existing Application as a Template can be located under the Investigator Help menu. PIs should be sure to specify and/or differentiate how upcoming research activities differ from the previous year. This may include proposals for activities planned in a previous year but were delayed for any variety of extenuating circumstances. Supporting maps, diagrams, and/or protocols must be revised and submitted to reflect the activities anticipated for the upcoming calendar year.
Final Report & Curation
Final Reports provide the NPS with the formal conclusion of a permitted research effort. NPS managers use these reports to inform management plans and decisions. Additionally, scientists and educators use NPS related science to inform research and education programs. All Scientific Research and Collecting Permit holders must submit a final report to formally finalize and conclude a RPRS permit. The due date of the Final Report should be coordinated directly with the ZION RPRS Coordinator; however, PIs should aim to submit a Final Report no later than March 31st within 90 days following the completion of research activities or no later than March 31st of the following calendar year, whichever comes first. Detailed instructions on how to Submit a Final Report and Related Documents may be located under the Investigator Help menu.
Final Reports should be submitted in a format suitable for publication on the NPS IRMA Data Store portal. PIs must consider copyright protections and provide conclusions in a manner with which is allowable for public consumptions. Upon submission, Final Reports are circulated amongst the ZION interdisciplinary team for review and acceptance. Incomplete Final Reports will be returned to a PI with guidance on requirements outstanding. There is no required format for final reports, although the general format of a scientific paper or report works well in most cases, i.e. introduction, purpose, methods, results, discussion of implications, and conclusions. Note that it is important to AVOID including personal identifiable information and/or spatial data that could potentially jeopardize the security of sensitive resources (endangered plants, archaeological sites, fossils, caves, etc.). Contact the ZION RPRS Coordinator to arrange a secure transfer. Applicable specimen curation requirements must be met before a Final Report is accepted by the NPS and assigned as “complete.”
It is important for PIs to maintain contact with each NPS unit to provide copies of all reports, publications, presentations, and related the data collected throughout the NPS system. These scientific findings will be kept in the NPS Archives to inform park management decisions, used in future research and education programs, and become part of the legacy of the NPS.
All scientific research carried out within NPS units are to be archived into the NPS Collection as managed by the NPS Museum Management Program. The collection includes a variety of organized data sets, both qualitative and quantitative, and range across a diverse set of research topics. Many scientific research activities involve collecting specimens that will be maintained permanently in appropriate NPS or non-NPS museum repositories. Before an RPRS permit determination is made for applicants involving specimen collection, prospective PIs must include a detailed budget that reflects appropriate funding to physically catalog specimens and provide for their long-term curation.
If a prospective PI has requested to handle, collect, and/or house specimens at a Non-NPS repository, a Handling or Collection of Specimens Certification must be completed as a part of the application process. A responsible official at the Non-NPS custodial institution must also sign an Appendix A: Proposed Repository for Collected Specimens. When applicable, both forms will be generated automatically as a part of an RPRS application. Note that the NPS does not loan specimens to individual parties, only to institutions. If no specimens will be collected as a part of the research or if all the specimens will be destroyed during analysis, an Appendix A is not required. However, if it is later determined that temporarily retained specimens or material originating from such specimens in fact warrants permanent retention, the PI must contact the ZION RPRS Coordinator or the ZION Museum Curator for additional instruction as soon as practicable.
Outgoing Loan Agreements for all specimens not entirely consumed in analysis will be made with institutions not already covered by a Service-wide repository agreement. All specimens collected from NPS managed lands must be labeled with NPS accession and catalog numbers. Third party loans, even for identification or analysis, may not be undertaken without prior written approval from the originating NPS unit. Similarly, transfers, consumptive analysis, destruction, or disposal of specimens may also not be undertaken without prior written approval from the appropriate NPS staff.
It is the responsibility of the PI to correctly catalog all specimens to NPS Standards. Official NPS catalog numbers may be obtained by contacting the ZION Museum Curator. Completed catalog spreadsheets must be turned over to the originating NPS unit to be incorporated into the NPS Collection database. PIs should access Researcher Resources for Specimen Collection to locate approved cataloging templates and for more information on the large and diverse set of historic, cultural, and biological collections that are often of great value for researchers. Refer to common Collection FAQs and an Overview of Collections Related Enhancements to RPRS for more information.
The NPS reserves the right to inspect or audit loaned items at any time and may recall specimens without prior notice if it is determined that they are not receiving proper care. Specimens may randomly appear on the annual NPS museum inventory, in which case, the repository will be contacted to confirm the existence and condition of the specimen(s).
Last updated: August 2, 2023