New Research Shaping the Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity

We believe that the next generation of young leaders in conservation science and stewardship should play a part in shaping the focus of the Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity. A graduate seminar offered through the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) in Spring 2018, led by Professor Steve Beissinger and Institute Executive Director Jon Jarvis, gathered together a group of students to frame the major research questions facing parks and public lands.The following are a few of the major topics and issues identified and assessed by student groups.


Envisioning New Models for Parks

Parks and protected areas need to adapt to changing environmental conditions if they are to conserve biodiversity and critical ecological processes. We have come a long way from A. Starker Leopold’s interpretation of parks as, “vignette(s) of primitive America” in his 1963 report, which defined parks as static entities. Although this western characterization of parks spread to the rest of the world, this model of parks is becoming increasingly irrelevant as climate change, habitat fragmentation, biodiversity loss, invasive species, and disease alter ecosystems beyond what conservation goals are capable of restoring. Additionally, across the world, the rights of indigenous communities over traditional lands, many of which were appropriated for parks, is being increasingly recognized and acknowledged, along with the significant benefits that may possibly accrue from co-management of these areas. While scientists and resource managers have long known that we need to change the way we think about parks, there has been a lack of research to investigate what these new models of parks should consider and incorporate.

Leveraging Tourism Dollars for Sustainable Landscapes
Harshad Karandikar

Conflict between wildlife and people is one of the biggest conservation challenges across the world. In the US, most national parks lie within mosaic landscapes or ‘coupled natural-human systems', with diverse ownership and land-use patterns, including agriculture and ranching operations that epitomize rural America. In many areas with significant large mammal populations that move outside PA boundaries, there is a need to ensure that wildlife conservation pays for at least a part of the externalities associated with it. The Berkeley Institute for Parks, People and Biodiversity can play a critical role in designing mechanisms for leveraging tourism dollars for achieving sustainable wild landscapes, with an objective of achieving buy-in and support for wildlife conservation from local communities.


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Multi-jurisdictional collaboration to achieve shared landscape-scale conservation outcomes
Avery Shawler

When envisioning new models for parks, it is important to consider the role of existing protected areas and adjacent lands. Today most protected areas are surrounded by lands with different ownership and levels of protection. I propose that the Berkeley Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity conduct research to find out what policies, incentives, and other factors make landscape-scale collaborations in areas with multiple jurisdictions successful by continuing to comparing existing coordination efforts.


Critically Assessing how Wilderness Designation Affects Ecological Integrity, Clay Noss

The passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964 codified the United State’s commitment to the preservation of wild landscapes. The reality of the Anthropocene has engendered challenges to the conservation value of wilderness areas due to real and perceived limits on active management. These questions come against a backdrop of decades of research demonstrating the conservation value of roadless areas and limiting human intervention in ecosystems.  I propose that the Berkeley Institute for Parks, People and Biodiversity directly addresses this tension by empirically measuring how wilderness designation affects ecological integrity, thereby reaffirming the necessity of data driven decisions concerning the future of our public lands. 

Moveable parks for long-term ecological benefits in rapidly changing landscapes, Sophie Taddeo

Climate change and ecosystem stressors are increasingly threatening the ecological integrity of national parks. Temporary disturbances - including droughts, fires, or pest outbreaks - can seriously impact the availability of resources needed to support local biodiversity and maintain endangered species. This project explores how we could design spatially-dynamic national parks that move through the landscape to meet resources and wildlife populations, and fulfill the conservation goals they were set up for. While previous studies have shown positive benefits in marine ecosystems, few studies have focused on the potential application of moveable parks in terrestrial ecosystems. 

Natural resource co-management: The Karuk Tribe and state agencies, Clarke Knight


Leveraging autonomous vehicle technology to achieve conservation and greenspace goals
Audrey Haynes


An Inclusive, Equity-Based Model of Urban Parks, Sonrisa Cooper
Urban green space has been associated with gentrification and displacement of marginalized communities, while rising income inequality and housing insecurity continue becoming increasingly serious issues in urban areas. In an era of diminishing resources and rapid urbanization, we will need to identify transformative solutions to maintain parks in cities in a way that is accessible to all. What kind of tools can we leverage to provide access to parks that equally benefits all people, and minimizes the negative impacts of parks on vulnerable communities?

Breaking the Urban-Nature Divide, Jennifer Natali
As existing models of development expand into growing urban centers, the Institute has the opportunity to ask how new models of multi-functional public infrastructure can sustain ecosystem services within a region.

Facilitating Change via Urban Parks, Rachel L. Olliff Yang
As climate change progresses humans will also need to re-think our own urban habitat and behaviors, and the way we use and conserve the species around us. Here we propose that parks, particularly urban parks, could play a key role in the design of strategies for biodiversity resilience by providing spaces for experimentation, while at the same time benefit human health and involve urban communities in conservation practices.

A Community-Driven Model for Environmental Learning Parks, L. Wang
Access to urban green space and parks is an issue that falls at the intersection of numerous fields ranging from environmental justice to public health and conservation, and many models and solutions have been proposed to address it. I propose that a community and school-based model of “Environmental Learning Parks,” a model described by Garrett Devier be implemented and tested in a modular fashion.