Tracking an Infestation of Insects

Tracking an Infestation of Insects

Use an interactive map of Rocky Mountain National Park to track the progression of damage from mountain pine beetles from 2001 to 2011.


5 - 12+


Biology, Ecology, Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

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Mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) are insects native to North America that have helped shape forests in this region for thousands of years. The beetle is a parasite and uses pine trees as a source of food and as a place to lay eggs. Recent changes in climate have allowed the insect to reproduce in large numbers, resulting in the loss of many acres of forest. The changes in climate include warmer than usual winter temperatures in the mountains that allow the young and vulnerable mountain pine beetles to survive through the winter.

The recent outbreak has been classified by scientists as an epidemic and has left millions of trees in the mountains of the western United States and Canada dead, dying, or damaged. The large amount of dead and dying trees can fuel forest fires, for which many parts of the region are susceptible.

Using the Rocky Mountain National Park BioBlitz FieldScope project, you can track the epidemic as it progresses across the park from 2001 to 2011. Launch the FieldScope project from the image above. Once loaded, notice that the orange-red color represents damage caused to stands of trees from mountain pine beetles. A vertical bar will appear on the map that you can move from side to side to compare damage between two different years that you will select, from 2001 to 2011.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Anne Haywood, National Geographic Society
Sean P. O'Connor, BioBlitz Education Consultant
Educator Reviewer
Sarah Richings-Germain, Teacher, Olander School for Project Based Learning, Fort Collins, CO, Olander School for Project Based Learning
Expert Reviewer
Joseph Kerski, Ph.D., Education Manager, ESRI, ESRI
Last Updated

August 31, 2022

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