Board of Directors and Staff
The George Wright Society is a membership organization governed by a Board of Directors, a majority of whose members are elected by the members, the rest being appointed. Here are biographical sketches of the current Board.
Brad received a B.S. from the University of Maine and M.S. from the University of Massachusetts, and is completing his Ph.D. at the University of Alaska. He has worked at the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, managed NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and is currently a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of the Director of the US National Marine Sanctuary Program. In addition to being on the GWS Board, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Coastal Zone Canada Association, and is a member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. He has published extensively on marine protected areas science and management, recently focusing on the issue of ocean wilderness.
Gary E. Davis, Treasurer
Gary is a marine ecologist. After retiring from the U.S. National Park Service, he works as an environmental consultant and is President of GEDAvis & Associates. In his 43-year federal career he held many diverse and challenging positions, including national park ranger, Project Tektite Aquanaut, Research Director, and Science Advisor for the U. S. National Park Service, U. S. Geological Survey, and the University of California, Davis. Currently, he and his wife Dorothy, head an environmental consultancy where Gary helps clients analyze, clarify and communicate environmental information. Recent clients include the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, National Parks Conservation Association, and Smithsonian Institution. Previously, Gary conducted research for Virgin Islands, Everglades, Dry Tortugas, Biscayne, and Channel Islands National Parks. He also chairs the SeaDoc Society’s board of directors for the Wildlife Health Center of the U.C. Davis School of Veterinarian Medicine, serves on two federal advisory committees for the U. S. Departments of Commerce and Interior, and guides development of a new Professional Science Master’s degree program in Coastal Sustainability for the California State University, Channel Islands, in Camarillo, California.
Nathalie Gagnon is Senior Analyst, Aboriginal Engagement, in the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat at Parks Canada. In her role, she provides advice and develops tools for parks staff on matters related to Aboriginal engagement. Her main focus is to ensure that the voices of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples are included and inform all aspects of planning and management of heritage places Parks Canada administers. In recent years, she has been instrumental in developing the first Handbook for Parks Canada Employees on Consulting with Aboriginal Peoples, has set up the Integrated Aboriginal Affairs Network (a network of Parks staff who hold monthly teleconferences to share best practices) and has developed a compendium of best practices and lessons learned at Parks Canada entitled: ‘’Working Together: Our Stories’’. She started her Parks Canada career at Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick in 2002 as Director for Saint Croix Island International Historic Site. This site is historically significant to both the United States and Canada as it is
the only international historic site in both park systems.
Nathalie is from the Anishinaabeg First Nation and was raised by Acadians in Wabanaki Territory in the Maritime Province of New Brunswick. She is very proud and considers herself lucky to share both of these heritages. After completing her undergraduate studies at St. Thomas University in Fredericton in French Language and Literature, she did her graduate courses at McGill University in Montréal. For the past 20 years, she has held a variety of positions where she dedicated her work to engage the voices of underrepresented people such as Aboriginal peoples, women and youth in both the Civil Society and in the Public Service. Her experiences spanned the national and international levels as “chargée de mission” for the New Brunswick Department of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs during the Hanoi (Vietnam) and Moncton Francophone summits; Chair of the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women and Director of the Fédération des jeunes francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick.
In 2004, in collaboration with Donald Soctomah, Tribal Heritage Officer for the Passamaquoddy tribes in Maine, she wrote a children’s book titled: Tihtiyas and Jean in French and English while Mr. Soctomah wrote the Passamaquoddy version. In 2005, the book won the iParenting Media Award and in 2010, the digital rights to the book were bought by the Belinda Stronach Foundation as part of the One Laptop Per Child Project.
Barrett Kennedy is a professor at Louisiana State University, where he has spent the past twenty years teaching historic preservation, documenting the cultural heritage of the Gulf South, and advocating an interdisciplinary and minimally invasive approach to resource conservation. He served ten years as the Associate Dean of the LSU College of Art+Design and Director of the CADGIS Research Lab, and was co-director of a team that received a national award for developing a GIS data clearinghouse during the response to the Hurricane Katrina+Rita disasters in 2005. He received graduate degrees in Architecture (MARCH) and Environmental Design and Planning (Ph.D.) from Virginia Tech, a B.A. in History from Tulane University, and worked as a Historical Architect with the U.S. National Park Service in the Pacific Northwest. His interest in sustainable cultural and natural resource management, planning, and design practices grows out of a concern about the impacts of ill-considered development and the vulnerability of heritage assets to natural and human disasters.
As a proponent and practitioner of the principle of "service-learning," Barrett has participated in programs with Operation Comeback, Outward Bound, NOLS, Sierra Club, and Wilderness Volunteers, and has drawn from these experiences to inform his teaching and research at LSU. In 2010, he and his wife, Peggy, were selected to serve as the "e-Tour" Traveling Team for the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, an international non-profit advocacy organization with a mission to promote strategies and techniques for minimizing or eliminating recreational impacts on public lands. He is a Life Member of the George Wright Society, and believes that interdisciplinary collaboration, education, and a personal commitment to stewardship are essential to preserving and celebrating our natural and cultural heritage.
Brent A. Mitchell, President
Brent is Vice President, Stewardship, at QLF/Atlantic Center for the Environment. Much of Brent's current work involves direct exchange among professional peers working for conservation in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North America, with a particular interest in civic engagement in landscape conservation. These programs reach more than 50 countries. Prior to joining the staff of QLF Mitchell lived and worked in five countries of the Caribbean and Latin America (including on-site development of the first two natural national parks in Haiti; gazetting of terrestrial and marine reserves in the Turks and Caicos Islands; and field research in wildlife ecology in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela). He worked as a field biologist for America's oldest land trust, the Trustees of Reservations, before joining QLF in 1987 to promote land trusts in eastern Canada. A member of IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas, he is leading an initiative on private protected areas and recently served as editor of an issue of its journal PARKS on the subject. He works with public land management agencies in all three countries of North America, particularly the U.S. National Park Service's Conservation Study Institute. QLF (Quebec-Labrador Foundation) is a registered charity in Canada and a 501(c)(3) publicly-supported charity in the US. Its mission is two-fold, to support the rural communities and environment of eastern Canada and New England; and create models for stewardship of natural resources and cultural heritage applicable worldwide.
David J. Parsons, Vice President
David is an Emeritus Scientist for the National Park Service where he is working with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to solidify the scientific background for a new wilderness stewardship plan. He recently retired as the founding Director of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute. Located in Missoula, Montana, the Leopold Institute is an interagency program that provides leadership in the development and application of knowledge related to the diverse ecological and human values of wilderness and similarly protected areas. Prior to moving to the Leopold Institute David spent 21 years as a research scientist for the National Park Service at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California. In that position, he developed and coordinated research programs in the broad areas of visitor impacts, fire ecology and the effects of air pollution and climate change. He is a plant ecologist by training, having received a BA from the University of California at Davis and a PhD from Stanford University. He is especially in applying his ecological training to the application of science to management and policy issues in support of parks, wilderness and other protected areas. He is widely published with over 130 published peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews.
From 2001–2006 David served on the Board of Directors of the George Wright Society and was the Co-Chair of the 2003 and 2005 GWS conferences. He has also held leadership positions with the Ecological Society of America, serves as a member of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, as helped organize the last four World Wilderness Congress’s (India, South Africa, Alaska and Mexico). His hobbies include most outdoor activities, but especially hiking, backpacking, and travel. He has lived and studied in Spain, Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica. He currently resides in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana.
Frank J. Priznar
Frank J. Priznar is the founder and president of PRIZIM Inc. a sustainability services firm headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD near Washington, DC. Throughout his 30+year career he has served as a research scientist, state natural resource agency program manager, and a trusted management advisor. Since 1996, he has worked with the US Department of the Interior and its Bureaus and Offices on sustainability policy and environmental program management. For their partnership with the National Park Service, PRIZIM Inc. became the first non-governmental entity to earn the Department of the Interior Environmental Achievement Award. Priznar has worked in more than 200 parks, refuges, and reservations throughout the world. His work has taken him from Alaska to Africa, from boardrooms to boiler rooms, and from stunning mountain peaks to pristine lake fronts and sacred cultural sites. He has held leadership positions in several nonprofit environmental organizations, where his responsibilities centered on administration, ethics, professional credentials, and education. Priznar received a Bachelor of Arts in Special Studies from the State University of New York at Fredonia, and a Master of Science in Water Resources Management from the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He is an author and contributor to more than 20 books and articles on environmental auditing, environmental management systems, impact mitigation, ethics, sustainability and American environmental leadership.
Molly N. Ross
Molly continues to consult on a variety of national park issues despite her retirement in 2010 from a 31 year career in Washington, D.C. covering a full spectrum of National Park Service law and policy issues. Molly served as Assistant Solicitor for National Parks (2000-2010), Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks (1993-2000), and Assistant Chief of the NPS Air Quality Division (1984-1993), in addition to other positions. She has particular expertise in the NPS Organic Act, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and other park law; the Antiquities Act; and the Clean Air Act. Molly received the Department of the Interior’s Meritorious Service Award in 1995, and the NPS Director’s Award for Professional Excellence in Natural Resources for 2009. She is a graduate of Harvard College and University of Chicago Law School. In retirement, Molly has more time to enjoy the outdoors, parks and other protected places, birds, books, family and friends.
Jan van Wagtendonk
Dr. van Wagtendonk grew up in Indiana, where he began his study of forestry at Purdue University. Summer seasonal work as a smokejumper for the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management convinced him to finish his undergraduate work at Oregon State University, where he received his B.S. in Forest Management in 1963. After serving as an officer in the U.S. Army with the 101st Airborne Division and as an advisor to the Vietnamese army, he entered graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. There Dr. van Wagtendonk obtained his M.S. in Range Management in 1968 and his Ph.D. in Wildland Resource Science with a specialty in fire ecology in 1972. From 1972 through 1993 he was employed as a research scientist with the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park. From 1994 through 2008, Dr. van Wagtendonk was been employed as a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey at Yosemite. His areas of research have included prescriptions for burning in wildland ecosystems, recreational impacts in wilderness, the application of geographic information systems to resources management, and the role of fire in Sierra Nevada ecosystems.
Dr. van Wagtendonk has written over 100 publications, including book chapters, peer reviewed journal articles, and technical reports; and he was a co-editor of the book Fire in California’s Ecosystems. He has received the National Park Service Director’s Award for Research in Natural resources in 1995, the Forest Service Chief Forester’s Excellence in Wilderness Stewardship Research Award in 2002, the Department of the Interior Meritorious Service Award in 2003, and the George Melendez Wright Award from the George Wright Society in 2005. He was a member of the 1995 and 2001 Federal Fire Policy Review working groups, served on the California Spotted Owl Federal Advisory Committees and the Joint Fire Science Stakeholders Federal Advisory Committee, and was the USGS representative on the Joint Fire Science Program board of governors. He is a founding member of the Association for Fire Ecology, served as its president for three years, and is now an editor for Fire Ecology, the journal of the Association. Although he retired in 2009, Dr. van Wagtendonk continues to write about fire and wilderness.
John, a conservation biologist with many years field experience in research and wildlife management, was born in Kenya next to Aberdares National Park. Wildlife formed part of the landscape that he grew up in. He decided to become a conservationist when he became aware of his community's hostility to wildlife, particularly elephants and large predators. His PhD research was on the impact of land use changes on elephants in Kenya. During his career, he has developed and implemented conservation and management programs in and around protected areas, and worked with partners to promote and strengthen local, regional and international conservation initiatives. John has worked with a broad spectrum of conservation and research partners from Africa, North America, Europe and Asia. He has represented organizations and governments in international conservation forums and worked with local communities, policy makers and donors (such as the World Bank, European Union, United States Agency for International Development, and IUCN Species Survival Commission to develop programs and guidelines for funding, implementing and evaluating conservation initiatives. He has experience in promoting private-sector involvement in conservation, and has received many research/conservation grants.
After receiving his PhD, John taught ecology at Kenyatta University in Nairobi for seven years. He later worked for Wildlife Conservation Society (the conservation branch of New York Zoological Society) as a conservation biologist and the Kenya Wildlife Service as head of Elephant Program, and as Deputy Director in charge of the Biodiversity Department. He initiated the Biodiversity Conservation Program under the European Union to support biodiversity conservation in Kenya by expanding the capacity and willingness of local people to protect biological resources and address threats to conservation. Through this initiative many community owned wildlife sanctuaries were established. Before immigrating to Canada in 2003, John was the Director of the African Conservation Centre, an indigenous African conservation NGO that brings together the people and skills needed to build local capacity to conserve wildlife. He currently works as a conservation biologist in Parks Canada.
During his conservation career, John served as a member of many conservation organizations, including the East African Wildlife Society, East African National History Society, IUCN's Species Survival Commission-African Elephant Specialist Group, European Union Biodiversity Conservation Program, Kenya Forestry Working Group, Ecotourism Society of Kenya, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and Elephant Research Trust Fund. He currently represents Parks Canada in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. John is interested in conservation biology, the human-wildlife-habitat connection, conflict management, social-political-economic context of conservation, and the conservation science and policy interface. He has authored and co-authored scientific papers and articles, participated in a wide range of conservation programs in both formal and informal sectors, and received international conservation awards.
Lynn is a regional park planner with the Capital Regional District (CRD) in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, where she has led numerous park planning and management initiatives on behalf of the region’s spectacular 34,000-acre natural areas system. Prior to joining the CRD, Lynn worked as a coastal planner for the Province of British Columbia and a research analyst for the University of British Columbia’s “Resilience and Capacity Development in B.C.’s Coastal Communities” project. Lynn has also worked for The Nature Conservancy in Arlington, Virginia as manager of their Belize and Bahamas country programs, and she has undertaken extensive research on park systems throughout the world.
Lynn is originally from Sacramento, California and comes from a distinguished parks family; her late father, Norman L. Wilson, spent his career with the California Department of Parks and Recreation as Chief of Interpretive Services and was a well-known authority on the California Gold Rush and native California Indians. Lynn is following in his footsteps by devoting her career to the advancement of parks, protected areas, and cultural heritage conservation in the U.S., Caribbean, and now Canada.
Lynn has a B.A. in Anthropology and a M.A. in Parks and Recreation Administration from California State University Chico, an M.A. in Community and Regional Planning from the University of British Columbia, and is completing a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Victoria. She is a member of the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) and is a registered professional planner. Lynn sits on the CIP’s International Affairs Standing Committee, and is a member of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, and the Canadian Committee of the IUCN. In addition, Lynn sits on several local park commissions and is very active in her community. She enjoys the outdoors, research, writing, and travel.
Carena van Riper (Graduate Student Representative to the Board)
Carena van Riper is the student representative to the George Wright Society Board of Directors. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University and is an Associate Student of the NSF-IGERT Applied Biodiversity Sciences Doctoral Program. She earned a M.S. in natural resources from the University of Vermont and an interdisciplinary undergraduate degree in conservation biology and outdoor recreation from Arizona State University. Trained as a social scientist in the human dimensions of conservation, her work examines human behavior that contributes to environmental change within the context of protected areas. She is interested in the spatial dynamics of social-ecological systems, environmental attitudes, values and norms, as well as concepts of “place.” Through her research, Carena has explored and been inspired by a number of parks and related areas including Channel Islands, Acadia, Glacier, and Yosemite National Parks, as well as Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Carena holds a deep-seated passion for teaching the future generation about parks and outdoor recreation and conducting research that can be used by protected area managers to define conservation priorities and improve visitor experiences.
David Harmon, Executive Director
Dave is responsible for overseeing the Society’s operations, including co-editing The George Wright Forum and helping plan the Society's biennial conferences. A member of the GWS since 1985, Dave began working for the organization in 1990 and served as deputy executive director until being named executive director in 1998. He is active in IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas. He also maintains an active research interest in the relationship between biological and cultural diversity, having co-founded the NGO Terralingua, which is devoted to that subject. Dave is the author of In Light of Our Differences: How Diversity in Nature and Culture Makes Us Human and has co-edited several volumes on protected area conservation, including The Antiquities Act: A Century of American Archaeology, Historic Preservation, and Nature Conservation (with Francis P. McManamon and Dwight T. Pitcaithley), The Full Value of Parks: From Economics to the Intangible (with Allen D. Putney), and Managing Mountain Protected Areas: Challenges and Responses for the 21st Century (with Graeme Worboys).
Emily Dekker-Fiala, Conference Coordinator
Emily is the logistics coordinator for the GWS’s biennial conferences and also organizes conferences that the Society jointly sponsors with other organizations. Emily has a B.S. in Resource Planning and Conservation from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources (1973) and did graduate work at Utah State University. She worked 10 years with the National Park Service and 6 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a variety of planning and resource management jobs in parks and refuges in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Alaska.
Rebecca Conard, Co-editor, The George Wright Forum
Rebecca is Professor of History at Middle Tennessee State University, where she directs the public history graduate program and also enjoys teaching American environmental history. While completing her doctoral work at UC Santa Barbara, she co-founded PHR Associates, a historical research firm based in Santa Barbara, California. Prior to entering teaching full-time in 1992, she was a principal partner with Tallgrass Historians L.C. of Iowa City, and she maintains associate status with this firm. As a consultant, she has specialized in historic preservation and cultural resource management services, which has given her countless opportunities to explore America's cultural and natural landscapes, from the bowels of deactivated Nike missile silos in the Angeles National Forest to meandering stonewalls in remote areas of Massachusetts. She is a native of Iowa, a place she returns to often. Her major publications include Places of Quiet Beauty: Parks, Preserves, and Environmentalism (1997), Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Legislative History, 1920-1996 (National Park Service, 1998), and Benjamin Shambaugh and the Intellectual Foundations of Public History (2002). She has contributed chapters to Proceedings of the Kansas History and History of the Great Plains Symposium (2001), Public History and the Environment (2004), and The Antiquities Act: A Century of American Archaeology, Historic Preservation, and Nature Conservation (2006), and also published articles in The Public Historian, George Wright Forum, Environmental Review, The Annals of Iowa, Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science, and Iowa Conservationist. She is a past president of the National Council on Public History (2002-2003); and she has received awards for her publications and for her contributions to public history from the American Association for State and Local History, the State Historical Society of Iowa, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the California Council for the Promotion of History, and the California Preservation Foundation.