National parks like the Great Sand Dunes present many challenges for restoration ecologists.

(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)

Imagine being tasked with restoring an area to an earlier form. Now imagine that area existed hundreds of years ago, without records or any other sort of road map to guide your work.

That's one of the challenges facing restoration ecologists. Whether it's fighting to keep a species viable, as workers are currently doing at Great Sand Dunes National Park in the San Luis Valley, or figuring out how best to reconstruct lands affected by climate change, the obstacles are formidable, says Nick Fisichelli. A former climate change adaptation ecologist with the National Park Service in Fort Collins, Fisichelli is now the forest ecology director at the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park in Maine.

"Natural systems are dynamic and always changing, and it makes it a challenge in managing natural resources -- both in developing meaningful goals for that management and knowing whether or not you're achieving them," he said.

Fisichelli spoke with Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel.