Colorado State University wildlife conservation chair wins academic leadership award

October 28, 2021

Joel Berger, world-renowned conservationist, author and wildlife conservation chair in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University, was recently honored with the Benton H. Box Award by the Clemson University Institute for Parks in recognition of his academic and instructional leadership in the environmental field.

The Institute presents the annual awards program, which is named for George B. Hartzog Jr., the seventh director of the National Park Service, to showcase leading figures in the field of conservation. Specific awards were named after visionary leaders that Hartzog respected and admired. Award recipients are following in Hartzog’s footsteps by making significant contributions to the management of parks and preservation of our natural, historical and cultural heritage.

The Benton H. Box Award recognizes academic professionals that exemplify Dr. Box’s distinguished career as an educator and administrator. Berger earned this year’s award for outstanding leadership in conservation and the pursuit of knowledge that has taken him all over the world.

The breadth and depth of Joel’s contributions to the field of conservation are remarkable,” said Jeff Hallo, Interim Chair of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University. “His research crosses cultures, pushes boundaries and strives to preserve and protect our planet. He is an invaluable leader in conservation.”

Berger grew up in Los Angeles, California, where his love for surfing and desert and mountain explorations sparked a passion for science. He realized at an early age the importance of understanding biological interactions – and in an effort to conserve the diverse natural resources of our planet, began his important work of studying endangered and lesser-known animal species, climate and environmental change and migration and connectivity. Most recently, his research has been focused on how society’s burgeoning passion for play and travel affect species on a local scale.

From studying muskoxen in the Russian and Alaskan Artic and wild yaks in the Himalayas to black rhinos in the Namib Desert of southern Africa, Berger’s work has taken him to the farthest reaches of the world and back again. He has published six books – one of which is “Extreme Conservation – Life at the Edges of the World” – and has garnered support from the Guggenheim Foundation, Smithsonian, National Geographic and the National Science Foundation. His work has also resulted in the only federally protected migration corridor, Path of the Pronghorn, in the United States.

“I know in my soul that the issue is not how many peer-reviewed publications we’ve scripted, but rather how we can reach and inform policymakers at levels that incite change,” said Berger. “We have to do more than just ‘science’ to advocate for our brilliant planet.”

Berger is currently the Barbara Cox Anthony University Chair in Wildlife Conservation at Colorado State University and a senior scientist for the Bronx-based Wildlife Conservation Society.


The Clemson University Institute for Parks (CUIP) provides research, education, training, and outreach that enhances the management of the world’s parks and protected areas. It accomplishes this by providing park and protected area managers with innovative research to support science-based decision-making; and by developing current and future leaders in the park movement by providing interdisciplinary and transformative education and training programs. The Institute currently consists of 35 Fellows and 10 Scholars working on park-related research.

Visit the CUIP website for more information about the George B. Hartzog, Jr. Environmental Awards program and this year’s recipients.