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Acadia to Zion: Understanding Our National Parks

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With support from: Lowell Institute
Date and time
Friday, December 05, 2003

Gillian Bowser, former assistant to the Director of the National Park Service and chief scientist in many NPS research efforts, talks about the what, why and who of the National Park System. The United States National Park System (NPS) is made up by sites as diverse in use and nature as this nation's states and territories are themselves, such as Acadia, the Grand Canyon, and the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Today it is comprised of 384 designated areas, and attracts over 421 million visits each year. The NPS is dedicated to preserving the natural and cultural heritage of this country, but what does that mean? While the NPS has always been at the forefront of discussing the relationship between America's varied and vast environment and the society that has developed within it, what this means in California and in Connecticut can be vastly different.

I am the Assistant Dean for Sustainability and Strategic Planning in the College but I wear many interesting hats. My responsibilities include sustainability issues for the College, working on outreach and internships. I recently started at Colorado State University after a five year stint at Texas A&M University as the National Park Service's Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit leader. In that capacity I worked with parks throughout the Gulf Coast area from Florida to Texas. I have over 20 years of National Park Service experience at parks as a wildlife ecologist. My main career has been with the National Park Service as an ecologist and I have worked on a wonderful mix of organisms from butterflies to bison to tortoises! I have worked in seven national parks including Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Badlands National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Fort Clatsop National Memorial, Wrangel St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and the main NPS office along the Gulf Coast including Padre Island National Seashore, Big Thicket National Preserve and Washington DC. Before coming to Colorado, I worked at parks along the Gulf Coast, including Padre Island National Seashore, Big Thicket National Preserve and San Antonio Missions.