Florida's state parks welcome scientific research that provides benefits for management purposes, is not harmful to park resources and is consistent with park management practices. Potential researchers may download the application and standard conditions.
Why Is a Permit Required?
The mission of the Division of Recreation and Parks, commonly referred to as the Florida Park Service or Florida State Parks, is to provide resource-based recreation while preserving, interpreting and restoring natural and cultural resources. The Division encourages scientific research and inventories and welcomes your interest in considering state parks for your research site.
The Division is responsible for preserving and managing natural and cultural resources and regulating activities within state parks to protect these resources for all time. Preserving natural resources in state parks while providing appropriate visitor services requires a full understanding of the parks' natural resources. The Division encourages proposals for scientific studies designed to increase the understanding of the natural resources and associated ecological processes within state parks. A Scientific Research and Collecting Permit is required in state parks for activities that involve fieldwork, specimen collection and/or have the potential to disturb resources or visitors. Permits are required by all persons conducting these activities other than Division employees conducting official business, unless otherwise exempted.
When Is a Permit Not Required?
Exemptions for elementary, middle or high school events or other similar activities related to education and outreach events may be granted. Individuals that are conducting "observational research" are not required to apply for a research/collecting permit but will be required to pay normal park entry fees. Observational research is limited to the types of activities that the typical park visitor can engage in; must be conducted during normal park operating hours; must not involve collecting or handling natural objects; must not require entry into areas closed to the general public; and must not require logistical assistance from park staff.
Individuals or groups that feel their activities qualify for an exemption should contact the appropriate staff person (see contact information below). For activities involving a single state park or Division district, the individual should contact that district office only. For research involving multiple districts, the individual should contact the Bureau of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Who May Apply?
Any individual may apply if he/she has qualifications and experience to conduct scientific studies or represents a reputable scientific, educational or non-profit institution or a state, federal or tribal agency. For projects involving multiple researchers, the principal investigator should be the applicant.
When to Apply?
Application review can take up to 30 days. Simple applications, such as those that do not involve the collection of natural objects or specimens, permanent research plots, or logistical support from park staff can often be approved in a shorter timeframe.
How And Where to Apply?
An individual can download application materials or call the Division's Bureau of Natural and Cultural Resources at (850) 245-3104. For research involving a single Division district, all application materials must be submitted to that District office. For research involving multiple districts, application materials should be submitted to the Bureau of Natural and Cultural Resources. Contact information is listed below.
Applications and Research Proposals
Applications for Research and Collecting Permits that involve the collection of natural objects or specimens, are invasive, or have the potential to impact the park operationally might trigger the application reviewers to request a research proposal. The information submitted in the application will be used by park staff to determine whether or not to issue a Scientific Research and Collecting Permit. Applicants should be prepared to provide a proposal if asked.
Review of Applications And Proposals
Each application will be peer reviewed by Division staff, biologists and park managers for compliance with agency requirements and other laws, regulations and policies. Staff may also pursue external scientific review, depending on the complexity and sensitivity of the work being proposed and other factors.
Decision Criteria for Permit Applications
Division staff reviewing applications make a decision to approve a Research and Collecting Permit based on a peer review of favorable and unfavorable factors; on an assessment of perceived risk to the natural resources and interruption to park activities; and on benefits to the knowledge and understanding of park resources. While park staff will work with applicants to arrive at a mutually acceptable research design, there may be activities where no acceptable mitigating measures are possible and the application will be denied.
The time and effort required to review the permit application and accompanying study proposal will be proportional to the type and magnitude of the proposed research.
For example, a single visit for a non-manipulative research project will often require a relatively simple proposal and the permitting decision should be relatively quick. Projects that are highly manipulative or intrusive; involve the collection of specimens; have the potential to affect non-renewable, rare or delicate resources; or which need detailed planning or logistics require more extensive review. General decision factors that influence permitting decisions are outlined below.
Favorable Decision Factors Related to Application Peer Review
The proposed research:
- contributes information which increases the understanding of park resources thereby contributing to effective management and/or interpretation of park resources.
- provides for scheduled sharing of information with park staff, including any manuscripts, publications, maps, databases, etc.
- addresses problems or questions of importance to science and shows promise of making an important contribution to knowledge of the subject matter.
- involves researcher(s) that have a record of accomplishments in the proposed field of investigation with a demonstrated ability to work cooperatively to accomplish the desired tasks within a reasonable time frame.
- includes occasional summaries of findings for public use, such as seminars and brochures.
- minimizes disruption to the park's natural and cultural resources, to park operations and to visitors.
- discusses plans for the cataloging and care of collected specimens.
Unfavorable Decision Factors Related to Application Peer Review
The proposed research:
- shows potential for adverse impact on the park's natural, cultural or scenic resources.
- shows potential for adversely affecting park visitors or staff, requires substantial logistical support from park staff, or provides insufficient time for necessary application review and consultation.
- involves extensive collecting of natural materials or unnecessary replication of existing voucher collections, or has the potential to have a large amount of by-catch or non-target species impacts.
- is to be conducted by a principal investigator lacking scientific institutional affiliation and/or recognized experience conducting scientific research, or who has failed to provide adequate research reports for past state park permits.
- lacks adequate scientific detail and justification to support the research objectives and methods.
- does not provide return benefits to the park and could easily be conducted outside the park boundaries.
- does not provide for collected specimens to be vouchered or stored at a public institution.
The principal investigator should receive notice of the approval, approval with modifications, or rejection of the application by written correspondence via mail, email or facsimile. If modifications or changes in a study proposal initially deemed unacceptable would make the proposal acceptable, the reviewer will suggest them at this time. If the application is rejected, the applicant may consult with the Chief of the Bureau of Natural and Cultural Resources to clarify issues and assess the potential for reconsideration.
Standard Conditions (requirements and restrictions) will be attached to all Research and Collecting Permits issued. These conditions must be adhered to by the permittee(s). Additional park or district-specific conditions may also be included to address additional stipulations. A Division permit is valid only for the activities authorized in the permit and must be carried by the permittee(s) at all times while conducting research in state parks. Permittee(s) are not required to pay regular entrance fees while conducting research in state parks, but MUST contact the park a minimum of one week in advance of any visits.
The principal investigator must notify the Division of any proposed changes. Requests for significant changes may necessitate the development of a revised proposal, re-evaluation of the permit conditions and issuance of a rerevised permit. Nothing in the permit shall be construed as granting any exclusive research privileges or automatic right to continue, extend, or renew research.
Other state or federal permits may be required as part of a research project. Examples may include U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service migratory bird or threatened and endangered species permits, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission scientific collecting permits, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services permit to harvest endangered or commercially exploited plants or Florida Museum of Natural History permit to collect vertebrate fossils.
Scientific activities involving ground disturbing activities or pertaining to cultural resources, including archeological sites, cultural landscapes, historic and prehistoric structures require that the applicant consult with the Florida Department of State, Division of Historic Resources. It is the responsibility of the applicant to identify and secure all additional regulatory permits required. Applicants may be asked to provide copies of additional permits prior to commencing research in state parks.
Research Reports And Deliverables
Researchers working in Florida State Parks are required to complete and submit a scientific report at project completion and/or no later than 60 days after permit expiration. Scientific reports may be in the form of compiled data, journal publications and/or other printed materials resulting from the studies conducted in state parks. This information is used to document accomplishments of research conducted in state parks, confirm presence/absence or population status of resources found within the park and to provide data to managers for making informed management decisions.
The level of detail required in reports must be commensurate with the detail and scope of research or collecting conducted:
- If the research involves species surveys, a park-specific list of the species found must be provided and include additional details such as the habitat in which they was found or other notable observations and management implications.
- If GPS locations are taken on rare species or similarly significant resources, the GPS data (coordinates) and/or GIS data (shapefiles) must be provided.
- If data gathered provides information of population abundance, status, or trends, those data must be provided.
- If the research involves establishment of monitoring plots, either GPS coordinates or a map showing the locations of the plots must be included in the report.
Permit Renewals, Amendments or Extensions
Researchers may request a permit renewal, extension or amendment. Permit renewal requests should occur no later than 30 days after the permit expiration date and receipt of the required report. Beyond the 30 day expiration, researchers will be required to submit a new application. Permit extensions and amendments can be requested at any point while a current permit is active.
Guiding Policies and Statutory Authority
Chapter 258.008, F.S. and Chapter 62D-2, F.A.C. prohibits capturing, trapping, injuring, or introducing wild animals; cutting, carving, injuring, mutilating, moving, displacing, or breaking off any water-bottom formation or coral; collecting natural objects including plants, animals, and minerals; or leaving designated public roads in a vehicle within the boundaries of a state park without first obtaining the express permission of the Division.
In order for the Division to authorize such activities related to scientific research and collection a permit shall be issued provided that such activities provide some benefit to the Division for management purposes (such as the provision of a scientific report), is not harmful to park resources and is consistent with park management practices as stated in Sections 258.004, 258.007, 258.017 and 258.037, F.S. Authorization may be obtained only by submitting a written request via a Research and Collecting Permit. Failure to abide by permit conditions or failure to provide a scientific report may result in a permit being revoked and future permit applications being denied.
Research and Collecting Permit Coordinators
District 1 Parks (Northwest)
Phone: (850) 233-5110
District 2 Parks (Northeast)
Phone: (352) 204-4513
District 3 Parks (Central)
Phone: (407) 553-4369
District 4 Parks (Southwest)
District 5 Parks (Southeast)
Phone: (772) 546-0900
Multi-District or Statewide
Phone: (850) 245-3105