The Birth of America's Best Idea at UC Berkeley
In 1915 Stephen T. Mather, class of 1887, and Horace M. Albright, class of 1912, gathered a group at the young University of California Berkeley campus to plot a future for the country’s existing and evolving national parks. The result was legislation establishing the National Park Service (NPS) in 1916. Mather became the first director of the NPS, Albright was the second. UC Berkeley has been intimately involved with the parks ever since. Professors Joseph Grinnell and Joseph Le Conte lead early research on Yosemite’s natural history, trained the first cohorts of NPS biologists and connected generations of students with the parks. Alumnus George Melendez Wright started the NPS’s Wildlife Division with his own funds and for many years it operated out of the top floor of Hilgard Hall, in what is now the College of Natural Resources. UC Berkeley is continuing that close connection and moving it into the next century, leading science for parks for the next 100 years.
Current UC Berkeley Faculty Doing Park-related Work
Steve Beissinger and colleagues in UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology are retracing the steps of Joseph Grinnell throughout California’s national parks to document the effects of a century of climate change on wildlife. Watch this video to learn more about this work. Work by Kevin O’Hara, John Battles, Richard Dodd, and Todd Dawson is helping managers to better understand how forest ecosystems will respond to climate change. Justin Brashares and colleagues are comparing wildlife communities in undisturbed parks in California and Africa to altered ecosystems outside of parks. Erica Bree Rosenblum and Wayne Getz study diseases in Californian and African national parks, respectively. Scott Stephens conducts research on fire management in parks and surrounding lands. To read more about the diverse types of park related work our faculty and students are doing, click here.
On the summit of Mt. Whitney, Horace Albright stands third from the right and Stephen T. Mather to his right. National Geographic photo by Gilbert Grosvenor.