The 2015 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites

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(POSTED Mar 1, 2015) — Get the free GWS2015 mobile conference app!



Engagement. Education. Expectations. Welcome to GWS2015!

Thanks for your interest in the 2015 George Wright Society Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. GWS2015 is your place to engage with colleagues who share your commitment to excellence ... to educate yourself about the latest trends and ideas ... to raise expectations for yourself and your career! 

We'll be gathering in Oakland, California, March 29–April 3, 2015, for a week of stimulating discussion about leading-edge research, innovative management practices, and the core values that motivate us.  GWS conferences are all about recharging your batteries, reconnecting with friends old and new, and reflecting on critical issues.  Make plans to join us!


When we say "parks," we mean a lot more.

Every two years, the George Wright Society organizes the USA’s premier interdisciplinary professional meeting on parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. By these three overlapping terms we mean a broad array of places, both “cultural” and “natural,” managed by different entities under a variety of designations:

  • parks at all levels: federal, state/provincial, regional, and city
  • historic, archaeological, and other cultural sites; cultural landscapes; protected landscapes/seascapes
  • research areas and designated wilderness within national and state forests; other protected natural areas
  • grasslands, wildlife refuges, national monuments, and other protected public lands
  • areas and sites administered by tribal nations and/or Indigenous people; community-conserved areas; sacred natural sites
  • marine protected areas; estuarine, freshwater, and other aquatic sanctuaries
  • private land-trust reserves

The GWS Conference also encompasses disciplines and activities that link with or otherwise support the work of parks, such as GIS and museum work.  Any member of the public is welcome to register and attend.

A major goal of the GWS is to encourage more diversity in the conservation of parks, protected areas, and cultural sites.  This commitment is reflected in two scholarship programs we run that are aimed at encouraging minority students and non-student Indigenous people to participate in our conferences: the George Melendez Wright Student Travel Scholarship Program and the Indigenous Participant Travel Grant Program.  Click the "Scholarships" link for more information.


What's different about GWS conferences?  Our broad horizons.

The GWS is unique among professional organizations because our mission is to promote protected area stewardship by bringing together practitioners from all fields to share their expertise. The conference goes well beyond the U.S. national park system to include other federal agencies, tribes, state agencies, NGOs, academic concerns, and park systems and organizations outside the USA.  When it comes to parks, our area of interest is the entire world.


Value for money.

In a world where every organization operates on a tight training budget, conferences must deliver demonstrable benefits at a good price.  At GWS, we plan and carry out our conference with value foremost in mind.  Our results-oriented program emphasizes presentations that deliver take-home benefits to attendees.  Our registration and special-event fees are at the lower end of comparably sized civil-sector and professional society meetings.  Our conferences receive high marks (greater than 4.2 on a scale of 1–5) from attendees on overall satisfaction.  And we try to minimize the environmental impact of the conference through "green meeting" practices.

GWS2015: The place to refresh your career.

GWS2015 is your chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues, make important new contacts, get up-to-date on the latest innovations in park management, stay current with research findings in your field, and connect with people who share your core values. Our broad range of program offerings — including thought-provoking keynotes, wide-ranging paper and panel presentations, focused business meetings, a dynamic poster session, field trips, a service project — aim at delivering useful information and new skills you can use right away.  We work hard to make the GWS biennial conferences the park profession’s best all-around learning venue.

Ready to get started?  Begin by reading the Call for Proposals.


GWS2015: Bridging three major conservation events.

The 2015 George Wright Society Conference falls between three major events in parks and conservation: the World Parks Congress last November in Sydney, Australia; and both the US National Park Service Centennial and World Conservation Congress in Hawaii in 2016.  The GWS program includes a number of sessions specifically designed to act as a "bridge" between these important meetings, bringing information to attendees about what happened in Sydney, what's in store for the USNPS Centennial, and what the early plans are for the World Conservation Congress.


"Science for Parks, Parks for Science" Symposium

If you're arriving in the Bay Area early, you might also consider attending  "Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century," a centennial conference celebrating the birth of the National Park Service at the University of California–Berkeley from March 25-27, 2015.  Go to for complete details.  (Separate registration required.)


Questions? Ask us!

We've created this website to answer your questions about the conference. But if anything isn't clear, don't hesitate to contact us — we are always glad to help. Thank you for your interest in the George Wright Society and our conference.  We look forward to seeing you in Oakland!

Dave Harmon
GWS Executive Director

Emily Dekker-Fiala
GWS Conference Coordinator

Or call us at 1-906-487-9722.

Conference Co-Sponsoring and Supporting Organizations

US National Park Service • Co-Sponsor
Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians • Supporter
Hitachi Consulting • Supporter
Vanesse Hangen Brustlin • Supporter

GWS logoNPS logoNPS Centennial logoSYBCI logo

Hitachi Consulting logoVanesse Hangen Brustlin logo


GWS Board of Directors

Nathalie Gagnon, president
Jerry Mitchell, vice president
Ryan Sharp, treasurer
David J. Parsons, secretary
David Graber
Barrett Kennedy
Chris Spence
Jan W. van Wagtendonk
Lynn Wilson
Matthew Browning, graduate student representative


GWS2015 Conference Committee

Jerry Mitchell, co-chair
Melia Lane-Kamahele, co-chair
Matthew Browning
David Graber
David Parsons
Ryan Sharp
Chris Spence
Jenn Thomsen
Lynn Wilson


GWS2015 Indigenous Involvement Working Group

Nathalie Gagnon
Melia Lane-Kamahele
Angela Mooney D'Arcy
Freddie Romero
Corinna Gould

Except where noted otherwise, all photos courtesy of Dorothy & Gary Davis