Leopold Institute Staff- David ParsonsLeopold Institute Staff- David Parsons

Institute Director

David Parsons


  • Ph.D., Plant Ecology - Stanford University. 1973.
    Dissertation:  A comparative study of vegetation structure in the Mediterranean scrub communities of California and Chile.
  • B.S., Biological Sciences - University of California, Davis. 1969.


Following 21 years as a Research Biologist with the National Park Service and National Biological Survey at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, David transferred to the U.S. Forest Service in 1994 to become Director of the Leopold Institute. Prior to moving to the Leopold Institute, he coordinated development and oversight of interdisciplinary research teams to address the fire ecology of mixed conifer forests, recreation impacts in wilderness, and potential impacts of acidic deposition and climatic change on the ecosystems of the southern Sierra Nevada. He has served in various roles as editor, reviewer and team member for professional societies and federal agencies. He has over 125 publications on topics related to plant and fire ecology and wilderness, park & protected area management.

Research Interests:

NPS Research:

View Slide Show (pdf format) presented at 2001 Ecological Society of America Conference - "Supporting Basic Research in U.S. National Parks."

Selected Publications:

To access publications by David Parsons, please click here.

Cole, David N.; Yung, Laurie; Zavaleta, Erika S.; Aplet, Gregory H.; Chapin III, F. Stuart; Graber, David M.; Higgs, Eric S.; Hobbs, Richard J.; Landres, Peter B.; Millar, Constance I.; Parsons, David J.; Randall, John M.; Stephenson, Nathan L.; Tonnessen, Kathy A.; White, Peter S.; Woodley, Stephen. 2008. Naturalness and beyond: protected area stewardship in an era of global environmental change. The George Wright Forum 25(1):36-56.

Parsons, David J. 2004. Science and the management of protected areas. Pp. 36-40 in Harmon, D. and G.L. Worboys (eds.), Managing Mountain Protected Areas: Challenges and Responses for the 21st Century. Proceedings of the Mountain Protected Areas Workshop, 5th World Parks Congress, Durban, South Africa, September 2003. Colledara, Italy: Andromeda Editrice.

Parsons, David J., Peter B. Landres and Carol Miller. 2003. The dilemma of managing and restoring natural fire and fuels in United States wilderness. Pages 19-26 in K.E.M. Galley, R.C. Klinger, and N.G. Sugihara (eds.). Proceedings of Fire Conference 2000: The First National Congress of Fire Ecology, Prevention, and Management. Miscellaneous Publication No. 13, Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, FL.

Parsons, David J. 2004. Supporting basic ecological research in U.S. national parks: challenges and opportunities. Ecological Applications 14(1):5-13.

Parsons, David J. and David N. Cole. 2003. The challenge of wilderness stewardship. George Wright Forum 20(3):22-25.

Parsons, David J. 2000. The Challenge of Restoring Natural Fire to Wilderness. In: Cole, David N.; McCool, Stephen F.; Borrie, William T.; O’Loughlin, Jennifer, comps. 2000. Wilderness science in a time of change conference - Volume 5: Wilderness ecosystems, threats, and management; 2000 May 23 - 27; Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-15-VOL-5. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 276-282.

Parsons, David J.; van Wagtendonk, Jan W. 1996. Fire research and management in the Sierra Nevada National Parks. In: Halvorson, William L.; Davis, Gary E., eds. Science and Ecosystem Management in the National Parks. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press: 25-48.

van Wagtendonk, Jan W.; Parsons, David J. 1996. Wilderness research and management in the Sierra Nevada National Parks. In: Halvorson, William L.; Davis, Gary E., eds. Science and Ecosystem Management in the National Parks. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press: 281-294.

Parsons, D.J.; Graber, D. 1991. Horses, helicopters and hi-tech: managing science in wilderness. In: Proceedings: Preparing to manage wilderness in the 21st Century. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-66. USDA For. Serv.: 90-94.

Parsons, D.J.; Graber, D.M.; Agee, J.K.; van Wagtendonk, J.W. 1986. Natural fire management in national parks. Environmental Management. 10(1): 21-24.

Editorial/Review Activities:

  • Associate Editor, Ecological Applications (Ecological Society of America)
  • Served as Special Features Editor for Invited Features on Wildlife Management in National Parks and Uses of Historical Variability Concepts in Managing Ecosystems, Ecological Applications
  • USGS/BRD global change and wetlands research program reviews
  • Federal Advisory Committee Act review on California Spotted Owl Draft EIS
  • Federal Interagency Fire Sciences Plan review

Committee/Task Force/Faculty Participation:

  • Sustainable Biosphere Initiative Committee, Ecological Society of America
  • Review committee for Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, National Parks Ecological Research Fellowship Program
  • Science Task Force for BLM's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Planning Committee
  • Advisor to Pincot Institute's external federal management wilderness review committee
  • Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Science Team
  • Planning Committee and Conference Co-Chair, 1999 Wilderness Science Conference
  • BLM wilderness fire review, Arizona Strip
  • Advisory Board for the Wilderness Institute, University of Montana, Missoula
  • Affiliate Faculty, University of Montana

Contact Information:

Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute
790 E. Beckwith Ave.
Missoula, MT 59801
Phone: 406-542-4190
Fax: 406-542-4196
E-mail: djparsons@fs.fed.us

Main Staff Page


Questions about the Leopold Institute or this website should be addressed to RMRS_Leopold_Institute@fs.fed.us.
This website is maintained in cooperation with the University of Montana Wilderness Institute.