Joel Berger

Last name: 
GBC Committee Role: 
Executive Committee

I work both as a CSU professor and as a senior scientist for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. Most work is 1) thematic – long-distance migration, climate impacts, and novelty in predator-prey relationships in the context of food webs; 2) set in North America, Arctic, Asia, and Africa; and 3) with mammals larger than a bread box. I note that conservation cannot be done in the absence of people, and have used science as a form of diplomacy to build bridges between protected areas and those not by uniting fieldwork and people in Bhutan, on the Tibetan Plateau, and in the Asian and American Arctic as well as in the heart of the American West – the Rocky Mountains. I’ve been a recipient of several Guggenheim and NSF awards, am an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, have twice been a finalist for the Indianapolis Prize, and honored with lifetime achievement awards by the Society of Conservation Biology and American Society of Mammalogists. In addition to four books and an edited volume, a new book will be published in 2017, Extreme Conservation – Contesting Species Extinctions at the Edges of the World.

Cox Chair of Conservation Biology
Research Interests (Specific): 
I often take a pragmatic approach to science and conservation by asking ‘how to’ or ‘what if’ questions, with a focus on: a) how we might we assure long distance migrations beyond the boundaries of protected areas? B) factors likely to affect the short- and long-term persistence of Arctic and cold-adapted species of high elevation, species such as muskoxen, mountain goats, and wild yaks? C) approaches that will incentivize local herders and semi-nomads in central Asia to reduce their herd sizes of domestic stock because these affect the global trade of cashmere and core areas designed to protect endangered species like wild yaks and snow leopards and the lesser known kiang, khulan, and saiga, and 4) novelty in prey-predator relationships because of the movement of species due to climate or humans
Research Projects: 
Project Title: 
Novelty in Prey-Predator Relationships in the Arctic
Project Location Coordinates: 
66.8983° N, 162.5967° W and 71°14′N 179°25′W
Project Location Details: 
BERINGIA -- Russia and USA (Chukotka and Alaska)
Study Species: 
Muskoxen (along with transitional on polar and brown bears)
Project Citations: 

Berger, J. In Press. Science and challenge to conserve large wild mammals in 21st Century American Protected Areas. In, Science for Parks and Parks for Science, (ed. S. Beissinger), University of Chicago Press. Berger, J. 2012. Estimation of body-size traits by photogrammetry in large mammals to inform conservation. Conservation Biology 26:769-777.

Project Description: 
This project is addressing both direct and indirect consequences of climate alteration and human manipulations of sex ratios on the potential persistence of the Arctic's largest land mammal. Different components include 1) establishing ecological baselines both in the Alaskan and the Russian Arctic on individual growth rates (e. g. body size change) through non-invasive monitoring, 2) understanding the extent to which polar bear predation shapes future prospects for muskoxen persistence, and 3) variation in muskoxen responses to brown bear and polar bear possible predation.
Project Title: 
Climate and Challenge in a Cold-Adapted Obligate
Project Location: 
United States
Project Location Coordinates: 
48.7596° N, 113.7870°
Project Location Details: 
Glacier National Park, Montana
Study Species: 
Mountain Goats
Project Description: 
The project has funded Wesley Sarmento's and my work to understand what drives the distribution of mountain goats in areas where glacial recession has been rapid. Goats may be using certain habitats because human provide a buffer against predation, because humans provide nutritional subsidies, or because of altered plant communities due to warming temperatures.