Superintendent, Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area,
National Park Service
Interviewed by Tara Weaver 11/4/2008
Can you recall a few of your main impressions from the first Science Symposium in 2003; specifically as they compare to this year’s symposium?
In 2002, we had an intro session at MIT where we introduced the researchers who were working on Park Service projects to each other, and briefly went over their scope of work, because the researchers in the park had never really met together before. We used that as a spring-board for what we could do if we were all talking to each other. We set up the 2003 symposium by saying, in a year from now we want to get together and learn what you have learned about the park. MIT Sea Grant worked with me to put together a summary of the 2002 seminar.
In 2003, we received several grants; about $150,000 in funding for the Science Symposium. We used the symposium as the opportunity to do a peer-reviewed journal. We tried to establish Boston Harbor Islands as a player in the field of science, and in research about Boston and national parks. The symposium was a full day at the Museum of Science. We had E.O. Wilson as the key note speaker; that was a highlight. It was really there that he got engaged in Boston Harbor Islands. All of that resulted in the ATBI and the work with Harvard. E.O. Wilson as the keynote really was the launch of the ATBI.
Charlie Roman and I were the editors of the peer-reviewed journal. He was the scientific editor and I was the style and park-related content editor. That was a tremendous amount of work, but to have the peer-reviewed journal was a great outcome of the first symposium. The 2003 Symposium really established the park as a venue within the scientific community. With E.O. Wilson as the speaker, and with all of the presentations, and then with the Northeastern Naturalist as a wrap up, it was a robust agenda.
How does science relate to the mission of the National Park Service and Boston Harbor Islands?
Our mission is to protect resources for future generations. The premise of science in park management is that in order to make wise decisions you have to have information. Science is one way of gathering useful information to make management decisions. Science relates to the National Park Service and Boston Harbor Islands in that it provides information for sound decision making.
How has the presence of island research projects encouraged a sense of community in the park?
It has happened in several ways. One is that there is a community of scientists now interested in the park, and that was clearly evident at the 2008 Symposium. The event, and all the research, has created this community of researchers. Then, because of our intent of making science also available to citizens and managers, the science has increased the community of managers and staff; the island staff rangers have become involved in the science and feel more involved in park management. Then there are the stewardship and citizen scientist aspects from the Bioblitz this year. We had Judy Pederson return—she was my host at the 2002 MIT seminar. She came back as a volunteer for the Bioblitz this year because of her involvement and because of the buzz; the same with Mark Mello, who did some of our initial research on insects in the park. He has been back for some of the activities and events. Also, volunteers have been involved in the community of stewardship scientists.
For members of the Partnership who did not attend the Symposium, is there a section from the event that they might find particularly interesting?
You can’t generalize for all of the Partners. You have to think about those who are island managers for whom specific information about their islands will be of particular interest. I think for non-island managers, a general summary of facts like number of species, reports on field trips and the collection of specimens, found and unidentified specimens will be of interest to the non-land owner.
How do you see the Partnership benefiting from the research?
One way is that park managers will have the information to make informed, scientifically-based decisions. The Partnership and the park, as a whole, benefit in being seen as a legitimate research venue and serious management entity, because we take our work seriously and there is real research going on.