Alan Watson awarded prestigious ST position in USFS

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Mar. 16, 2016 – A panel of scientists from across the United States met in January to review the career accomplishments of Supervisory Research Social Scientist Dr. Alan Watson of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute. The panel recommended Watson be promoted to an “ST” graded position in recognition of his contributions and leadership on wilderness science teams facilitated by the Leopold Institute, which was followed by approval by Forest Service senior leadership.

ST is a unique category of Federal jobs covering positions classified above the GS-15 level.

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Photo of Dr. Alan Watson in northwest Russia’s Polistovsky National Nature Reserve, where he was a 2015 Fulbright Senior Specialist to assist in assessing threats and developing monitoring guidelines.

It is awarded for performance of high-level research and development. Many of the federal government’s most renowned scientists and engineers serve in ST positions. Watson is recognized for his contributions to the mission of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute and the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Strategic Research Priority: Human-Landscape Interactions.

The Leopold Institute is a research organization with a national, interagency and international scope of work, located on campus at the University of Montana, Missoula. The Leopold Institute is dedicated to providing the quality, peer-reviewed research necessary to develop policy guidelines and management practices that assure that sustainable wild ecosystems and their benefits and values endure for generations to come. Watson’s research focuses on influences on wilderness visitor experiences, trends in use and users and managing conflicting demands; ecosystem services stakeholder tradeoff analysis and indicators of climate and land use vulnerability; and, environmental change adaptation for forest planning for tribal entities (forest health, cultural meanings, and protected area management).

His work encompasses many interdisciplinary dimensions of social science and is international in scope. He has engaged in direct exchanges with investigators and managers from 13 countries in the arena of wilderness management, including receiving five Fulbright awards. His research covers a range of conservation issues, recognizing the critical need for social science involvement in human and ecological aspects of wilderness protection and in expanding the scope and meaning of nature protection to contemporary society.

The panel acknowledged that a significant thread through his career accomplishments at the Leopold Institute has been research leadership in expanding understanding of the meaning and value of wilderness, how it plays out across different locations and stakeholders, particularly with respect to the Circumpolar North and Tribal Nations around the world.

His leadership and knowledge synthesis roles are especially important in his work on Circumpolar North wilderness issue definition, in sustainable development science in the Russian Far East and the larger Asian Pacific region, and his collaborations with indigenous peoples to facilitate incorporation of their knowledge about fire and nature protection values into decision-making.

The panel stressed how important these topics are for land management agencies worldwide, which have traditionally had a very difficult time incorporating the values of indigenous peoples, and humans in general, into protected area management decisions. The panel also recognized the importance of his work in implementing fuzzy GIS applications into mapping meanings for cultural landscape protection while improving ecosystem health. The research he conducts is highly complex; involving diverse stakeholders and has contributed new methods of measurement of human experiences in nature.

The panel stated, “Dr. Watson’s efforts have moved the science and understanding of wilderness towards better policies and well-informed management decisions and a greater likelihood of promoting an enduring contribution of wilderness to society and a sustainable planet.”