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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley


Parks Stewardship Forum delivers interdisciplinary information and problem-solving techniques across all topics relevant to the world’s parks, protected areas, cultural sites, and other forms of place-based conservation. The journal represents all areas of inquiry relevant to understanding and management of parks, protected areas, cultural sites, and other forms of place-based conservation, including but not limited to the natural sciences, cultural resources-related disciplines, social sciences, and interdisciplinary perspectives. 

America's Largest Classroom: Expanding the Role of Education in Our Parks

Issue cover
Cover Caption: Middle school students from Cody, Wyoming, study hot springs during a visit to Orange Spring Mound, Yellowstone National Park. ANA HOUSEAL

This issue's featured theme papers look at innovations in education and interpretation in the US national park system.

GUEST EDITORS: Ana K. Houseal and Jessica L. Thompson

Masthead and Table of Contents

Masthead and Table of Contents

Masthead and Table of Contents for Parks Stewardship Forum, Volume 36, No. 2

Points of View

Treading over the crust of a volcano

This "Letter from Woodstock" editorial column shares thoughts on how the US federal government’s response to Covid-19 has been hampered by the hollowing-out of expertise in the federal workforce.

Connecting the dots: Why does what and who came before us matter?

A "Coloring Outside the Lines" editorial column.  A review of organizations who pioneered the involvement of persons of color in park stewardship, outdoor recreation, historic preservation, and other forms of place-based conservation.


Advances in Research and Management (Peer-Reviewed)

Human-caused climate change in United States national parks and solutions for the future

Human-caused climate change has exposed the US national park area to more severe increases in heat and aridity than the country as a whole and caused widespread impacts on ecosystems and resources. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars, power plants, and other human sources would reduce future risks. Since 1895, annual average temperature of the area of the 419 national parks has increased at a rate of 1.0 ± 0.2ºC (1.8 ± 0.4ºF) per century, double the rate of the US as a whole, while precipitation has declined significantly on 12% of national park area, compared with 3% of the US. This occurs because extensive areas of national parks are located in extreme environments. Scientific research in national parks has detected numerous changes that analyses have attributed primarily to human-caused climate change. These include a doubling of the area burned by wildfire across the western US, including Yosemite National Park, melting of glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park, a doubling of tree mortality across the western US, including Sequoia National Park, a loss of bird species from Death Valley National Park, a shift of trees onto tundra in Noatak National Preserve, sea level rise of 42 cm (17 in.) near the Statue of Liberty National Monument, and other impacts. Without emissions reductions, climate change could increase temperatures across the national parks, up to 9ºC (16ºF) by 2100 in parks in Alaska. This could melt all glaciers from Glacier National Park, raise sea level enough to inundate half of Everglades National Park, dissolve coral reefs in Virgin Islands National Park through ocean acidification, and damage many other natural and cultural resources. Adaptation measures, including conservation of refugia in Joshua Tree National Park and raising heat-resistant local corals in Biscayne National Park, can strengthen ecosystem integrity. Yet, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities is the only solution that prevents the pollution that causes climate change. Energy conservation and efficiency improvements, renewable energy, public transit, and other actions could lower projected heating by two-thirds, reducing risks to our national parks.

Theme Articles

America’s largest classroom: Expanding the role of education in our parks

An introduction to this issue's set of theme papers, which were inspired by the new book America’s Largest Classroom: What We Learn from Our National Parks (University of California Press, 2020). These papers explore innovations in education and interpretation in the US National Park Service.

Dynamic learning landscapes: The evolution of education in our national parks

A history of education and interpretation in the National Park Service.

Every Kid in a Park Climate Change Academies: Notes from the field

Students learn about climate change at on-site academies, with examples from Indiana Dunes National Park and Cape Cod National Seashore.

Envisioning sea level rise in Golden Gate National Recreation Area

A step-by-step explanation of how Golden Gate National Recreation Area developed a set of complementary climate change exhibits for various sites in the park, focused on the impacts of sea level rise.

From Grand Canyon to Yosemite: Lessons learned from the development and assessment of digital geoscience field trips for mobile smart devices

How geoscience apps are enhancing students' understanding of the geology of places such as Grand Canyon and Yosemite national parks.

Getting every kid outdoors: Notes from the field

The evolution of programs to encourage grade-schoolers to get out into parks.

A partnership model of education at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

How an park conservancy leveraged partnerships to build a very successful environmental education program in an urban national park.

Valuing free-choice learning in national parks

Self-directed learning in parks deserves to recognized for its effectiveness.

New Perspectives (Non-Peer Reviewed)

Strengthening the global system of protected areas post-2020: A perspective from the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas

Protected areas are the cornerstones of biodiversity conservation and have never been more relevant than at the present time when the world is facing both a biodiversity and a climate change crisis. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) has been helping to set global standards and best practice guidelines in protected area planning and management for 60 years. Following this guidance, many countries have made significant progress toward their Aichi Target 11 commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The global community will be coming together at the 15th Conference of the Parties of the CBD to set new biodiversity conservation targets for the next decade, as milestones to 2050 and a vision of “a world living in harmony with nature.” This paper lays out the WCPA perspective on priorities for supporting effective protected and conserved areas for the post-2020 era.

Special opportunities for conserving cultural and biological diversity: The co-occurrence of Indigenous languages and UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites

Recent research indicates that speakers of Indigenous languages often live in or near United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Natural World Heritage Sites (WHSs). Because language is a key index of cultural diversity, examining global patterns of co-occurrence between languages and these sites provides a means of identifying opportunities to conserve both culture and nature, especially where languages, WHSs, or both are recognized as endangered. This paper summarizes instances when Indigenous languages share at least part of their geographic extent with Natural WHSs. We consider how this co-occurrence introduces the potential to co­ordinate conservation of nature and sociocultural systems at these localities, particularly with respect to the recently issued UNESCO policy on engaging Indigenous people and the forthcoming International Year of Indigenous Languages. The paper concludes by discussing how the presence of Indigenous people at UNESCO Natural WHSs introduces important opportunities for co-management that enable resident Indigenous people to help conserve their language and culture along with the natural settings where they occur. We discuss briefly the example of Australia as a nation exploring opportunities for employing and strengthening such coordinated conservation efforts.

The early years of Sequoia and Kings Canyon Science: Building a research program

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.

The Photographer's Frame

Beyond the scenery: Parks as giant living classrooms

Parks offer numerous forms of educational value, but these values will be diminished or lost if society is left unaware of history or we become oblivious to our surroundings.

Verse in Place

Ghost Trees

The first contribution to PSF's "Verse in Place."  Each issue will feature a poem that explores the power of place in the world.