My current research focuses on two main topics. First, to help improve wilderness stewardship nation-wide, I'm leading interagency efforts to integrate the concept of “wilderness character” into planning, management operations, and monitoring.
The second focal area of my research is developing decision-support tools for whether ecological restoration actions should be taken in wilderness. For example, climate change is increasingly forcing wilderness managers to confront the very complex challenge of whether restoration actions should be taken inside wilderness to mitigate the effects of climate change. Part of this challenge is determining the primary or basic purpose for what a wilderness is managed for. These decision-support tools will integrate federal laws and policies, the most current scientific information, and the underlying ethical and philosophical meanings that commonly underlie most decisions yet are commonly not explicitly stated. The overall intent for these decision-support tools is to have a transparent, comprehensive, and systematic approach for making these fraught decisions.
My research is broadly aimed at developing the strategies and tools for improving wilderness stewardship nationwide, and specifically the knowledge needed to protect and sustain ecological systems in wilderness. Wilderness management decisions are based on scientific information as well as on agency policies and social values, and my research reaches into all of these topics.
My recent past research has largely focused on developing the concept of wilderness character in practical terms that wilderness managers and others can apply in planning, management operations, and monitoring. This research laid the foundation for evaluating the outcomes of wilderness stewardship in preserving wilderness character, which is the primary mandate of the 1964 Wilderness Act and all subsequent wilderness legislation.
Our nation's wilderness is unique and increasingly threatened from many different directions. Only by understanding what wilderness is and the outcomes of our stewardship can we as individuals and as a society truly value and sustain this resource. All of my research, past and present, is focused on understanding what wilderness is, the basis for how it's managed, and the outcome of this management. With this knowledge, my intent is to help improve wilderness stewardship and derive the enduring benefits from this unique resource of wilderness.