Our Story & Team

Mission: The George Wright Society promotes protected area stewardship by bringing practitioners together to share their expertise.

Origins: Founded in 1980, the George Wright Society was established in honor of George Melendez Wright -- a pioneer in wilderness conservation who was born in San Francisco, CA. In 1930, he went on to become the U.S. National Park Service's first chief of the wildlife division. Under his leadership, each park started to survey and evaluate the status of wildlife to identify urgent problems. Building upon his legacy, we work on behalf of the scientific and heritage values of protected areas to ignite a shared sense of purpose to protect our natural and cultural resources.


Our Goal: The George Wright Society strives to be the premier organization connecting people, places and knowledge to foster innovative solutions in conservation. We are an interdisciplinary network of researchers, managers, Indigenous peoples, educators, students and various other dedicated professionals.

Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Dave Reynolds
Dave Reynolds

David Reynolds retired in 2015 from a 40-year career working for the National Park Service and other agencies where he specialized in protected areas management and governance, primarily in the natural resource management and international capacity development fields.


While in the NPS, Dave was assigned to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Global Protected Areas Program 2011-2015.  He served as a Senior Adviser for Capacity Development and was instrumental in determining global training needs and in coordinating the production of protected area publications for an international audience.  In addition, he led a World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Specialist Group that developed and launched a 10-year IUCN Strategic Framework for Capacity Development at the 2014 World Parks Congress. 


Dave previously served as the NPS Chief, Natural Resources and Science, Northeast Region, overseeing natural resource scientists and specialists, in diverse areas such as water resources, air quality, coastal geology, wildlife management, integrated pest management, inventory and monitoring and geographic information systems, that supported the 81 parks of the Northeast Region.  He was the NPS lead in organizing two major Department of the Interior Climate Change Workshops 2008 and 2010.


Prior to working in the Northeast Regional Office, he was the Chief of Natural Resources and Science at New River Gorge National River in the early 1980’s.  Later he was assigned to the U.S. Peace Corps office in Washington, D.C. in the late 1980’s where he assisted Peace Corps Country Directors in developing assignments and conducting pre-service and in-service training for parks, wildlife and environmental education Volunteers and their host country counterparts.  Dave’s first contributions to protected area management were in 1976 when he served as a Peace Corps park biologist in the Comoe National Park in Cote d’Ivoire and in the St. Floris National Park in the Central African Republic. Over his career, he has carried out long- and short-term protected area assignments for USAID, US DOI, IUCN, Peace Corps and NPS in more than 30 countries.


In addition to serving as President of the George Wright Society, Dave is currently a protected areas consultant and a member of the Executive Committee of the IUCN National Committee for the USA.  He has a BSc. in Wildlife Biology from UMass and a MSc. in International Environmental Systems Management from the American University.  Dave and his wife, Mary Lynne, live in Medford, New Jersey, situated within the New Jersey Pinelands, a US Biosphere Reserve (https://www.nps.gov/pine/index.htm).  They have two adult sons and four grandchildren/future conservationists!

Bill Walker
Vice President

Bill is the Cultural Resources Program Manager for Three Rivers Park District - a 27,000 acre “Special Park District” serving the Twin Cities metropolitan region (Minneapolis & St. Paul, Minnesota). In this role, he manages all aspects of cultural resources monitoring, preservation and legal compliance, and oversees the operation of the Park District’s public historic sites.

Bill began his career in parks and protected areas with the National Park Service, serving as an interpretive Park Ranger at Salem Maritime NHS (Salem, MA), Saugus Iron Works NHS (Saugus, MA) and Virgin Islands National Park (St. John, USVI). From this early experience, Bill strongly believes that effective interpretive programming is one of the most powerful preservation tools available to resource managers, as it connects visitors with the meaning behind a park’s protected status, and empowers them toward a personal stewardship ethic.

Bill holds a BA in History and Museum Studies from Gordon College (Wenham, MA) and a Masters of Education from the University of Minnesota. He is a New Yorker by birth, a New Englander by association and a Minnesotan by marriage. 

Jennifer Thomsen

Jennifer Thomsen is an Assistant Professor of Parks, Tourism, and Recreation Management in the Department of Society and Conservation at the University of Montana. Jenn earned her Master’s in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology and her PhD in Parks and Conservation Area Management from Clemson University.  Bridging her natural science and social science backgrounds, her research focuses on four main areas: 1) stakeholder collaboration associated with large landscape conservation, 2) sustainable tourism, 3) the relationship between human and ecosystem health, and 4) environmental education and interpretation.

Jenn’s work takes place in many national and international contexts including the Crown of the Continent, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, southern and eastern Africa, India, Peru, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. She has done numerous projects with the National Park Service including the development of the Healthy Parks, Healthy People Science Plan and studies on interpretation and education programs, and international visitation and planning. In her work on large landscape conservation, she has been involved in the revitalization of the U.S. biosphere reserve program and serves on the National Committee. As a new board member for the George Wright Society, Jenn is excited to integrate her passions into her professional work and to engage with diverse and dynamic partners!

Jerry Emory
Board Member

Following work with several conservation organizations based out of both Latin America and the Western US in the 1980s—including a year at the
Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galápagos Islands—Jerry became a professional writer and communications consultant. He is the author of five books and numerous magazine articles. He was a Senior Communications Officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation followed by ten years at the California State Parks Foundation as their Vice President for
Communications, Programs and Government Affairs. During 2018 he worked at Save the Redwoods League as their Centennial Communications Manager. A graduate of Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley, he lives with his family in Mill Valley, California.

Richard Harris
Board Member

Richard “Rick” Harris retired in 2013 from a 34-year career with the National Park Service (NPS) and other Federal agencies where he specialized in park and protected areas management, resources management, Wilderness management, planning, and policy.  Rick spent his early career in Wilderness Management with the US Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest and joined the NPS at Mount Rainier National Park in 1983.


Prior to retiring in 2013, Rick Served as the Associate Regional Director for Science and Natural Resources in the Northeast Region of the National Park Service and his portfolio also included the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance and National Wild and Scenic Rivers programs.  During his tenure in the Northeast Region he was appointed by the Secretary of the Interior to represent the NPS as a Commissioner to the New Jersey Pinelands, a US Biosphere Reserve.  Other positions held during his career included Superintendent for two national park units; Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and Chamizal National Memorial, Director of the Office of Strategic Planning in the Washington Office, Chief of Resource Stewardship and Science at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area, Branch Chief for Natural Resources at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, natural resources specialist at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (now National Park), and he was a graduate of the second National Park Service Natural Resources Training Program.


Since retirement, Rick has worked as a consultant with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, where he played an instrumental role in securing the establishment of the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument and Organ Mountains Wilderness Area in Southern New Mexico.


Rick has a BSc in Forestry from the University of Washington and an MSc in Resources Management and Public Policy from Oregon State University.  Rick and his partner, Nancy Kaufman, reside in the Las Cruces area of Southern New Mexico. 

Brian Peterson
 Board Member

Brian earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of San Diego as a premedical student while majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. At the University of San Diego he was a collegiate athlete on the cross country and track teams. He earned his master’s degree at the University of Utah with the department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. His thesis researched mapping the relationships between experiential elements and trail conditions of long-distance hikers of the northern Appalachian Trail. Brian is currently a doctoral student at Clemson University with the department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management. His research focuses on advancing temporospatial tools to analyze visitor use management of parks and protected areas. He has done research at Cumberland Island National Seashore, Buffalo National River, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and the Appalachian Trail.


Between undergrad and graduate school Brian worked for nearly seven years as a high school biology and chemistry teacher. He co-authored AP Biology for Dummies and Chemistry Workbook for Dummies. Brian also worked for two years at the California Conservation Corps supervising crews primarily composed of veterans that conducted fire fuel reduction projects around San Diego County.


Brian’s leisure time is spent trail running, backpacking, cooking, reading, and art pursuits. In 2014, he won the Bear 100 miler trail ultramarathon in Utah. Brian’s favorite backpacking trip was the Sierra High Route, which he traversed in 2016. Brian loves to make habanero cornbread. His favorite book is Teewinot written by Jack Turner.

Nadine Spence
Board Member

Nadine Spence, Klii?aht'a, is an Ahousaht First Nation member, part of the larger Nuu-chah-nulth Tribe on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Since 2001, Nadine has worked for Parks Canada in a variety of capacities and in various functional areas in both field operations and national policy development. In her current role as Executive Director of Operations, overseeing the British Columbia and Yukon region, she works with a team of executives to manage and operate Parks Canada’s national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas. Among other roles, she is the former Director of Natural Resource Conservation and former Director of the Indigenous Affairs Branch. She was recently recognized through a Public Service Award of Excellence, for her efforts as co-lead on the Pathway to Target 1 initiative to support Canada’s Biodiversity goals to protect 17% of Canada’s terrestrial and in-land waters by 2020.


A career in Parks Canada has allowed Nadine to marry her vocation with her culture. Her passion lies in advancing conservation in ways in which supports the advancement of Indigenous knowledge systems and understandings in the field of conversation and protected areas management, including the indivisibility that exists between nature and culture. As an Indigenous voice in the Public Service, she has the privilege to build bridges between cultures and people, assisting in finding common interests and shared priorities, and to advance relationships, policies, and operations that benefit from this increased depth of understanding.


Nadine holds a Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University, where her major research project focused on exploring the role of women in the governance of a tribal park protected areas model. She currently resides in Colwood, British Columbia with her two sons, Caleb and Brenner. In their time off from school and work, the family enjoys hiking in cultural and natural places, reading, travelling, and stand-up paddle boarding.

Terri Thomas
Board Member

Terri Thomas is a natural resources manager, ecologist, and planner with 36 years of national park experience.  She worked in Crater Lake, Yosemite, and Everglades national parks and from1984 to 2016 held the positions of Chief of Natural Resources Management and Science at Golden Gate National Recreation Area followed by the Director of Conservation, Science and Research at the Presidio Trust. In these roles she oversaw a diversity of disciplines such as vegetation and wildlife management, water resources, archeology, inventory and monitoring, research, geographic information systems, volunteer management and natural resources education.  She helped establish the Golden Gate International Biosphere Reserve.


Her knack for attracting experts to work together across disciplines enabled ecological work with teams of experts.  Restoration projects created and managed in this way included: day-lighted creeks from culverts, endangered plant communities, a tidal marsh, the only fresh water lake in GGNRA and currently nature-based adaptations to sea-level rise with 4 scientific institutions in Marin County. Bridging the gap between research and application is a passion of hers.


Terri has a BS in Forestry from U.C Berkeley and an MS in Forest Ecology from the University of Washington through the Parks Cooperative Park Studies Unit. She has served on the boards of Fire Safe Marin, the Sausalito Community Boating Center, the Floating Homes Association, the elected board of the Fallen Leaf Lake Community Services District, and most recently served as the Director of Natural Resources and Climate Resiliency for Conservation Corps North Bay.  Currently she serves as Director of Ecology for the Environmental Forum of Marin.  She lives with her dog, Thoreau, on her floating home in Sausalito CA, not far from her son and his fiancée.  Her daughter and son-in-law live in Boston.

Mike Walton
Board Member

Mike grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, at a time when parents directed children to “go outside and play”. This resulted in unsupervised mounted (bicycle) and pioneer (foot) exploration of parks, ravines, rivers, ponds, paths and tracks across the city.  Getting dirty and bloody in nature resulted in a life-long passion about wilderness and what parks and institutions do to protect it. Presently, as the Executive Director for the Yukon Conservation Society, Mike supports the Society’s Board of Directors, team of staff, contractors and volunteers in meeting their environmental conservation mandate.

Previously, as the Senior Manager for the Regional Parks system with the Capital Regional District, on Vancouver Island in Victoria, British Columbia, Mike oversaw the protection and use of 13,000 hectares (32,124 acres) of parklands and regional trails that welcome 7 million visits annually.  Mike worked with Parks Canada for 23 years including as Field Unit Superintendent, Northern Ontario, Resource Conservation Manager, Yukon Field Unit,  Aboriginal Relations and Federal Relations Business Unit Leader with Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries (on secondment from Parks Canada), Director, Parks Liaison, Secretary of State (Parks), Superintendent, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, and Manager, Visitor Services, Pukaskwa National Park. Mike was also an Assistant Park Superintendent, Head of Interpretation and Park Warden with the Ontario Provincial Park System. 


Mike completed his PhD with the University of Victoria in British Columbia.  His PhD research investigated the governance of protected areas, particularly, sharing power and decision-making.  Dr. Walton also holds a M.Sc in Parks and Recreation Resources Management from Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania, an Honours Degree in Outdoor Recreation from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a Diploma in Economic Development from the University of Waterloo, Ontario. Mike lives in Whitehorse, Yukon with his wonderful and patient partner Sylvie of nearly 40 years.  They have three grown children and two grandchildren. Mike now directs his grandchildren to “go play outside” with him


Dave Harmon
Executive Director
Co-editor, Parks Stewardship Forum

Dave is responsible for overseeing the Society’s operations, including co-editing Parks Stewardship Forum and helping plan workshops, conferences, and other meetings. A member of the GWS since 1985, Dave began working for the organization in 1990 and served as executive director from 1998 to 2017 before returning that role in 2019. He is active in IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas.  He also maintains a research interest in the relationship between biological and cultural diversity, having co-founded the NGO Terralingua, which is devoted to that subject. Dave has co-edited several volumes on protected area conservation, including The Antiquities Act: A Century of American Archaeology, Historic Preservation, and Nature Conservation (with Francis P. McManamon and Dwight T. Pitcaithley), The Full Value of Parks: From Economics to the Intangible (with Allen D. Putney), and A Thinking Person's Guide to America's National Parks (with Robert Manning, Rolf Diamant, and Nora Mitchell).

Emily Dekker-Fiala

Emily is the logistics coordinator for the GWS’s biennial conferences and also organizes conferences that the Society jointly sponsors with other organizations. Emily has a B.S. in Resource Planning and Conservation from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources (1973) and did graduate work at Utah State University. She worked 10 years with the National Park Service and 6 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a variety of planning and resource management jobs in parks and refuges in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Alaska.

Rebecca Conard
Parks Stewardship Forum

Rebecca is Professor Emerita of History at Middle Tennessee State University, where she directed the public history graduate program and also taught  American environmental history. While completing her doctoral work at UC Santa Barbara, she co-founded PHR Associates, a historical research firm based in Santa Barbara, California. Prior to entering teaching full-time in 1992, she was a principal partner with Tallgrass Historians L.C. of Iowa City, and she maintains associate status with this firm. As a consultant, she has specialized in historic preservation and cultural resource management services, which has given her countless opportunities to explore America's cultural and natural landscapes, from the bowels of deactivated Nike missile silos in the Angeles National Forest to meandering stonewalls in remote areas of Massachusetts. She is a native of Iowa, a place she returns to often. Her major publications include Places of Quiet Beauty: Parks, Preserves, and Environmentalism (1997), Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve Legislative History, 1920-1996 (National Park Service, 1998), and Benjamin Shambaugh and the Intellectual Foundations of Public History (2002). She has contributed chapters to Proceedings of the Kansas History and History of the Great Plains Symposium (2001), Public History and the Environment (2004), and The Antiquities Act: A Century of American Archaeology, Historic Preservation, and Nature Conservation (2006), and also published articles in The Public Historian, George Wright Forum, Environmental Review, The Annals of Iowa, Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science, and Iowa Conservationist. She is a past president of the National Council on Public History (2002-2003); and she has received awards for her publications and for her contributions to public history from the American Association for State and Local History, the State Historical Society of Iowa, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the California Council for the Promotion of History, and the California Preservation Foundation.

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