GWS2013: Latest conference news


Live interactive Webcasts of Soulé, Marris keynotes offered at no charge

(March 1, 2013) — In a first for GWS, we will be offering live Webcasts of the two keynotes at the 2013 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites.  Thanks to support from the NPS Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Program, you can sign up to listen to and take part in an interactive live Webcast of Plenary Session talks by the eminent conservation biologist Michael Soulé and the noted science writer Emma Marris.

Soulé and Marris will address "The Future of Conservation in the Anthropocene."  In the last couple of decades it has become apparent that the Earth is being utterly transformed by human activity.  The scope of our domination is so complete that some have proposed that we have entered a new era in Earth history: the Anthropocene.  The GWS2013 featured speakers will offer two very different visions of the future of conservation in this brave new world.  Soulé is a staunch and passionate defender of science-based conservation biology; Marris, through her notable book "Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World," argues that human dominion over the planet is not necessarily a bad thing, and that we need to fundamentally rethink our conservation goals.  It will be an exciting exchange of views.  Read more about them at

Please click the links below to register for the Webcasts; the Registration Code you'll need to enter is DENGWS13.   There is no charge, but you must register in advance and viewing will be allocated on a first come, first served basis with a limited number of connections available.  This means that registering does not guarantee you access to the Webcast — to have the best chance of getting one of the available connections, you must logon promptly on the day of the Webcast.

NOTE: Each webcast is a unique event so if you want to participate in both sessions you must register separately for each one.  Also, some operating systems require installation of the Microsoft Silverlight plugin in order to use the registration links below.  If that's the case, you'll be prompted to download the plugin (which is free).

Register for the Webcast of Michael Soulé's session, Monday, March 11, 8:00am to 9:30am Mountain Time (Registration Code: DENGWS13)

Register for the Webcast of Emma Marris's session, Tuesday, March 12, 8:00am to 9:30am Mountain Time (Registration Code: DENGWS13)




Official Concurrent Session Program now available

(March 1, 2013) — With it now looking almost certain that the US federal government sequester will not be avoided at the last minute, the time has come to finalize the GWS2013 concurrent session program.  If you've been following our communications the last few weeks, you know that we have been working with two planning scenarios: Scenario #1, which assumed that the sequester would be at least partially resolved and a fairly large number of US federal employees would attend, and Scenario #2, which assumes minimal US federal participation.  Given that a last-minute resolution is unlikely, we have decided to go ahead and make Scenario #2 the official concurrent session program for the conference.


If your session/paper is missing please contact Dave Harmon ( ASAP — but no later than 12:00 noon EST on Monday, March 4 — so he can reinstate you to the program.  Conversely, if you are listed on Scenario #2 but are no longer planning to attend, Dave also needs to hear from you by that deadline.

It is important that all organizers/presenters double-check Scenario #2, whether you are a US federal employee or not.  However, if you are a US federal employee and plan to participate in the conference regardless of Departmental approval or likely budget/sequestration restrictions, it is even more important that you look carefully at Scenario #2 to make sure that your session/paper was not inadvertently dropped.   In developing Scenario #2, we had to make the assumption that federal employees will not be attending the conference unless they notify us to the contrary. 

And, if you are a session organizer, you should double check with all your presenters/participants to confirm that they are still planning on
attending.  If your session has lost some of its presenters to cancellations, please know that even sessions with fewer-than-anticipated presenters can still be very effective — audiences often want more Q&A time than is usually allotted, for example.  If you are in this situation and considering canceling your session entirely, touch base with Dave first — he'll be glad to work with you to find a way to put on a successful session.

This is also your last chance to make any necessary corrections or updates to abstracts.  Please email them to Dave by noon on Monday the 4th.  Any changes after that will not be reflected in the materials in your registration packet.





Conference planning is "full steam ahead" as we work through federal budget uncertainties: FAQs

(January 19, 2013) — As many of you who follow news of the US government already know, we are dealing with a number of uncertainties related to the federal budget. It's a difficult situation, but the GWS conference planning team is working hard to meet the challenges, and the conference will go on as scheduled. 

Here's the story in brief. Congress was to have resolved the issue of “sequestration”—mandatory, across-the-board sharp cutbacks to the budgets of all agencies—as part of the recent “fiscal cliff” drama. Instead, Congress put off a decision on the sequester until March 1. Federal spending decisions are essentially paralyzed until then (or until such time as Congress finally resolves the issue).

On top of this, there is a new conference approval process in place at the Department of the Interior, under whose jurisdiction most of our federal participants fall. That process adds an additional layer of complexity to our conference planning. At this point all we know for certain is that fewer employees from at least one of our key partners, the National Park Service, will be allowed to attend than in recent years, and that final decisions on participation by federal employees may not be resolved until very late in the planning process.

This presents an extremely challenging situation for us as conference planners. Our Board has been struggling with these issues for some time now, and we seriously considered postponing or even canceling the conference. Instead, we have committed to go ahead as scheduled, but we do need to ask your indulgence, patience, and flexibility as we work with a program that will be fluid right up to the last minute. Despite all the uncertainties, we are confident that we will be able to offer a dynamic and stimulating experience for all who attend.

Below are some FAQs on the impact all this is having on our conference planning.  We will update this page as necessary between now and the conference.


Will the conference go on even if federal attendance is sharply curtailed?

Yes.  We are committed to holding the conference as scheduled no matter what happens with federal travel approvals.


What’s the situation with attendance by US federal employees?

Each federal agency has its own policies regarding conference attendance.   Agencies within the Department of the Interior (DOI) are subject to the department’s travel approval process.  As of this writing, a request to DOI for travel approval to GWS2013 is being prepared by NPS on behalf of all DOI agencies who wish to participate in the conference.  As soon as the NPS travel roster is determined (see below), the request will be submitted to DOI.


Is DOI approval of the travel request likely?

Nobody can say at this point.  Our assumption (and it is just that, an assumption) is that DOI is unlikely to approve the request until after the sequester issue is resolved — if DOI approves the request at all.  DOI could approve it in its entirety, approve it at a lower level, or deny it outright.  This means things could be up in the air until early March.


What if the request is denied? 

We are committed to going forward with the conference.  No matter what happens, we are confident that we can put on a high-quality program.


I work for the National Park Service. How is official attendance from NPS being handled?

The situation was explained by Associate Director Bert Frost in a memo to the field dated January 14.  In brief, NPS has a budget for GWS2013 conference attendance and support that is part of the overall request to DOI.  That amount will be divided proportionally among the NPS Regions  and Programs according to how many people from each had presentations accepted to the conference program.  Region and Program leaders will make the final selections for the NPS travel roster.


I work for NPS and I’ve been accepted for the GWS2013 Conference program.  When will I find out if I’ve been selected to be on the official NPS travel roster?

Check with your supervisor as to the timetable that applies to your particular Region or Program.  WASO has asked for responses no later than January 25.


I’m a federal employee.  If I’m not chosen to attend officially, can I come on my own time and dime?  Can I represent my agency and talk about my work?

Federal employees can certainly choose to attend the conference while on leave and at their own expense. The big questions are whether you can represent your agency and discuss your work while in personal travel status.  We have sought answers to these questions, but have gotten conflicting responses.  If and when we get a definitive answer, we will post it here.  In any case, you should check with your supervisor and/or ethics officer to get guidance on these points.


How can you prepare a conference program if you don’t know who’s coming until the last minute?

We will be developing several program scenarios, ranging from no federal participation to significant federal participation. If federal participation is approved in early March, we will be ready to implement the version of the program that includes presentations by approved federal attendees.


When will the likely program scenarios be posted?

We will provide an initial outline of likely program scenarios on the conference website on or about February 1 7. We will then regularly update those programs as more information becomes available.


I want to register before the earlybird deadline to get the lowest rate, but I’d also like to have some idea of what the program is likely to be.  How do I proceed?

We certainly understand why you might be reluctant to register early given the uncertain situation with the final conference program.  It’s a tough decision and we don’t have any easy answers.  We have moved the earlybird registration deadline back one week, to February 8 11, in order to give people time to examine the revised program scenarios.


I am on the program and I plan to attend.  Will my presentation get moved to a different time slot?

The uncertain situation we are in means that we will need to adjust the time slots for some sessions and individual presentations to assure the most cohesive program possible.  Having said that, we will do our best to keep presentations on the same day that they were originally scheduled.  We will notify people who have had their presentations rescheduled.  If a change in your presentation time results in a schedule or travel conflict, get in touch with us and we’ll work with you to resolve the problem.


I’ve already requested a change to the scheduling of my presentation.  What’s happening with that?

We have a list of all requested changes and will do our best to accommodate them within the new program scenarios.  We’ll contact you one way or the other to let you know what happened with your request.


I still have questions.  Who should I contact?

Please get in touch with me, Dave Harmon, the GWS executive director, preferably by email:  I will answer you promptly.


Conference registration now open!

(December 6, 2012) — The registration form for the conference is now up and running!  Check it out through the links in the menu to the right.



Conference Committee meets to select program

(November 1, 2012) — As we speak, the Conference Committee is meeting to evaluate abstracts and select the GWS2013 program.  We expect to complete the process by mid-November.  Notitfications to abstract submitters will go out shortly thereafter.



Soulé, Marris to headline conference


(posted September 23, 2012) — We are pleased to announce that Michael Soulé, one of the founders and leading lights of the discipline of conservation biology, and Emma Marris, the science journalist whose new book "Rambunctious Garden" is forcefully challenging some cherished tenets of conservation, will headline the 2013 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites as our two plenary speakers.  They will speak on Monday and Tuesday of the conference.  For more on the plenaries, go to