GWS2015: Focus sessions

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Focus Sessions are concurrently running, high-profile sessions developed by the Conference Committee.  Like Plenary Sessions, Focus Sessions spotlight important topics, but with just a few running at once instead of just one, they provide conference goers with a choice of topics to explore.  Focus Sessions kick off the Wednesday and Thursday mornings of the conference week.

Wednesday, April 1 • 8:00–9:30a

Philanthropy, Place, Conservation, and Culture

Welcome and introduction: Melia Lane-Kamahele (Native Hawaiian), National Park Service / GWS Indigenous Involvement Working Group

Chair of session: Angela Mooney D'Arcy (Acjachemen) / Pacific RAN Weaver, Native Americans in Philanthropy / GWS Indigenous Involvement Working Group

Speakers: Corrina Gould

Julia Sizek / Native American Land Conservancy

This session will discuss current work focused on the intersection between place-based philanthropy initiatives, ecologically-based land and water conservation efforts, and Indigenous peoples' use of conservation tools such as land trusts to protect sacred places and cultural sites in perpetuity. 


The US National Park Service Centennial: Next Generation of Visitors, Supporters & Advocates

Welcome and introduction: David Graber, GWS Board Member

Chair of session: Alexa Viets, Centennial Coordinator, National Park Service


Kelly Coy, Physical Scientist, NPS Biological Resource Management Division

Colleen Flanagan Pritz, Ecologist, NPS Air Resources Division

Third speaker TBA

NPS Centennial Coordinator, Alexa Viets, will share how the National Park Service will use its 100th anniversary to create the next generation of visitors, supporters and advocates for all public lands. Centennial programs are being framed to reach every 4th grader in the country, a national public awareness campaign and targeted outreach in urban areas, to name just a few efforts underway.  Alexa will present brief highlights on national plans, and will then be joined by three panelists to discuss models of success and challenges for connecting our work to a younger generation.


The World Parks Congress' Promise of Sydney – Implications for North America's Protected Areas

Welcome and introduction: Lynn Wilson, GWS Board Member

Co-chairs of session: Ernesto Enkerlin, Chair, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas; and Mike Wong, Parks Canada / Vice Chair–North America, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas


1) Ernesto Enkerlin (Chair, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas)
2) Mike Wong (Vice Chair, IUCN WCPA, Northe American Region)
3) Stephen Woodley (IUCN, WCPA/SCC Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas)
4) Karen Keenleyside (Parks Canada)
5) Elaine Hsiao (IUCN WCPA Young Professionals)
6) Leigh Welling (USNPS)
7) David Reynolds (IUCN, Global Protected Areas Programme)
8) Andrew Rhodes Espinosa (CONANP)
9) Lauren Wenzel (NOAA)
10) Diana Allen (USNPS)
11) Ted Trzyna (IUCN WCPA, Urban Specialist Group)
12) Jim Barborak (Colorado State University)

The IUCN Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), Ernesto Enkerlin, and the Vice Chair of the WCPA -North America Region, Mike Wong, invite all WCPA members and other GWS participants to a focus session on summary presentations by leaders of the 8 Streams and 4 cross-cutting themes of the World Parks Congress (  This will be followed by a panel discussion where all attendees can express their views on the Promise of Sydney  - the global strategy document of innovative approaches and recommendations for protected areas in the next decade -  and provide their perspectives on how best to proceed with its implementation.


Thursday, April 2 • 8:00–9:30a

Merging Economic Reality with Park Stewardship: Learning from the Presidio and Other Public/Private Models

Welcome and introduction: Jerry Mitchell, GWS Board Member

Chair of session: John Reynolds — Retired, National Park Service and Secretary of the Interior’s Representative, Board of Directors, Presidio Trust


Amy Meyer — Bay Area Park Advocate and Convener, People for the Parks/Presidio

Cherilyn Widell — Consultant in Heritage Building Conservation and Reuse, Seraph, LLC

Craig Middleton — Executive Director, Presidio Trust

Katherine Arrow — Manager of Lands and Real Estate, Business Management Division, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Presidio is a laboratory for partnership stewardship practices in environmental restoration, historic preservation and park design. Rolf Diamant recently described it in The George Wright Forum as “one of the most ambitious experiments in public park-making, urban design and multi-sector cooperation anywhere in the world.” Lessons in crafting partnerships, attracting philanthropic support and applying tax credit programs can be learned from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Presidio Trust and others around the country. How have the intersection of business opportunities, the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit program, and economic revitalization objectives been used to benefit innovative management inside park boundaries? Is it possible to steward natural and cultural resources with excellence using innovative applications of public and private resources together to benefit place and create synergy in park settings by locating recreation and work spaces together?


Climate Change Adaptation isn't for Sissies

Welcome and introduction: David Parsons, GWS Board Member

Chair of session: Leigh Welling, National Park Service

Speakers: Anthony Barnosky, Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley
Joshua Lawler, Associate Professor, Forest Resources, University of Washington
Mark Schwartz, Professor, Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis
Patrick Gonzalez, Climate Change Scientist, National Park Service

With the rapidly diminishing utility of the historical range of variability in framing “desired conditions” or conservation goals, protected area managers struggle to find solid footing and direction in the world of climate change adaptation. Speakers in this panel are distinguished contributors in advancing concepts for conservation planning in a rapidly changing environment, understanding limits of tools such as vulnerability assessments, illuminating challenges and concerns regarding non-traditional strategies such as managed relocation, and alerting decision makers to the real potential for abrupt climate change. Panelists will discuss what is different about planning for conservation in a rapidly changing environment; adaptation strategies over different temporal and spatial scales; key issues associated with managed relocation; and approaches to establish an early warning system for tipping points in order to anticipate surprises.


Inspiring a New Generation: Strategies for transformational change in relationships for youth, nature, and parks

Welcome and introduction: Alan Latourelle, CEO, Parks Canada

Chair of session: Karen Keenleyside, Parks Canada

Facilitator: Delia Clark, Principal, Confluence

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Elaine Hsiao, Co-Chair, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Young Professionals Group


Christina Marts, Assistant Superintendent, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park/ Stewardship Institute


Jessica Chen, Park Youth Collaborative Specialist


Lauren Wenzel, Acting Director, National Marine Protected Areas Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Alejandra Calzada, Independent Consultant

To build support for parks and other protected areas into the future we must ensure that young current and future leaders across all sectors of society care about nature and support its conservation.  Fundamental to achieving this goal is ensuring that young people have the experiences in nature, particularly in childhood, that lead to deep life-long personal connections with nature.  We must also empower young people in decision-making so that they can be current and future leaders for change.  This focus session will draw on the outcomes from the Inspiring a New Generation stream of the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress to identify key strategies for connecting young people with nature and empowering them to be agents of positive change.  An introductory presentation will be followed by a facilitated discussion of strategic and practical steps that can be taken to ensure that our planet’s future leaders are parks supporters.


New Directions in Interpretation

Welcome and introduction: Matt Browning, Graduate Student Liaison to the GWS Board

Chair of session: Julia Washburn, National Park Service

Speakers: Milton Chen, Senior Fellow, The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Lotte I. Lent, Assistant Director, The George Washington University

Theresa G. Coble, Associate Professor, Stephen F. Austin State University

The National Park Service (NPS) launched its first park website in mid-1990s. Since then, added to the mix are a range of social media platforms, mobile applications, and distance and online learning. The enormous educational opportunities created by technological advances are amplified by the recognition that formal education is just one piece of the learning puzzle. Learners are looking for personalized experiences driven by their interests, and learning can occur at any time and in any place. Learners take these experiences and attach them to their educational infrastructure while creating their own understanding. This type of engagement will become even more prevalent as a generation brought up with Facebook and other social media enter into the civic dialogue. This session will explore the characteristics and needs of the 21st-century learner and examine how technology helps meet those needs through the perspectives of experts in education technology and learning.