Jonathan Jarvis becomes director of UC Berkeley’s new Institute for Parks, People and Biodiversity

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After 40 years in the National Park Service, or NPS, Jonathan Jarvis will now take the position of executive director for UC Berkeley’s Institute for Parks, People and Biodiversity.

The campus announced the establishment of this new institute Tuesday. Jarvis began his service for NPS in 1976 as a ranger and he worked his way up in nine different parks. For seven years, he served as regional director for NPS in California, and was national director of NPS for eight years under the Obama administration.

The institute will provide research, lectures and workshops for the Berkeley community. According to Steve Beissinger, professor of ecology and conservation biology, it will bring together groups of people on campus to address questions of climate change and equitable access to parks.

“The (Berkeley Institute for Parks, People and Biodiversity) is to bridge the interdisciplinary areas of conservation and to create a new generation of conservationists and help create new framework for how we manage parks and public lands for the next century,” Jarvis said.

The Resource Legacy Fund, or RLF, provided a $250,000 seed grant to launch the institute, according to a campus press release. According to RLF director of communications Nancy Vogel, the money will provide initial funding for the hiring of executive director Jarvis and a support staff.

Vogel said the funds will also support a series of workshops that will engage representatives from multiple disciplines including education, natural resources, health, law and design.

“Our hope is that by creating this intellectual center for ideas, research and policy discussion, students at Berkeley will be inspired to get involved so we have equitable access and future generations will enjoy these lands as much as we do now,” Vogel said.

Beissinger called Berkeley a “birthplace of the national park service” because he said it has a history of influencing NPS. Jarvis added that the concept of having NPS was established on campus and the first director of NPS was a campus graduate.

“Berkeley has been at the forefront of managing parks for the last 100 years,” Jarvis said. “We’re ready for the next paradigm shift and we’re going to lead that here at this institute.”

According to Jarvis, public lands provide societal benefits such as recreation, clean air, clean water, biological diversity and pharmaceuticals. Green spaces, however, are challenged by development, pollution, invasive species and catastrophic events. Vogel added that the RLF hopes to see issues of access and climate change addressed by the institute.

“Parks are being biologically changed as a result of climate impacts which will force us to rethink how we manage our parks,” Jarvis said. “One of my purposes in working here at UC Berkeley is to help shape that new set of policies … to prepare a new generation of individuals that can manage parks in light of these changes.”

Contact Gioia von Staden at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @GioiaVon.