This paper provides a history of the development of the scientific research program at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI) during the period 1968–1994 from the perspective of one of the scientists involved. The years following the 1968 hiring of Bruce Kilgore as the first park-based research scientist at SEKI saw the growth of a research program that included three permanent research-grade scientists and their support staff. This nucleus was successful in attracting both outside funding and leading university and government scientists to work on issues of importance to the parks and to society at large, topics that included fire ecology and management, black bears, wilderness impacts, acid deposition, and climate change. During this time the SEKI scientists’ role expanded from one focused primarily on the personal research on issues of immediate importance to the park, to increasing responsibilities for marketing and coordinating a growing program of collaborative research that also addressed regional and national priorities. This, in turn, required that the park scientists increasingly become generalists, able to converse in a number of scientific disciplines as well as communicate with non-scientists. Finally, keys to success and lessons learned are discussed.