World-renowned wildlife conservation biologist Joel Berger joins Colorado State University’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology in the Warner College of Natural Resources as the first Barbara Cox Anthony University Chair in Wildlife Conservation.
Over the past four decades Berger has established himself as one of the world’s preeminent field biologists focusing on species in North America, Mongolia, the Arctic and Namibia. He has published five books and scores of articles on a wide variety of species ranging from wild yaks to black rhinos and from pronghorn to wild horses.
Berger is a senior scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society as well as a research associate for the Smithsonian Institution. Prior to joining CSU, he held the position of John J. Craighead Chair of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Montana.
“We’re thrilled to have Joel join our college,” said John Hayes, dean of CSU’s Warner College. “His tremendous experience and expertise will build on our efforts in conservation biology and further the university’s research strengths in that area.”
In the early 1990s Berger worked in Namibia on issues concerning the poaching of African rhinos. His comparative analysis of horned vs. non-horned rhinos led to the landmark finding the government’s program of dehorning the animals was incompatible with increasing populations, as female rhinos without horns were not able to effectively defend their young. These findings led to the publication of Berger’s book “Horn of Darkness: Rhinos on the Edge.”
Since 2007, Berger has engaged in extensive research in the arctic on muskoxen, a key species in our understanding of how climate change will impact wildlife populations throughout the world. While polar bears are the poster child for climate change, muskoxen remain a little-known cold-adapted Arctic species. Berger spent part of 2014 on an ongoing research project with Russian scientists on an Asian Arctic island where they documented polar bears hunting muskoxen.
“Having Dr. Berger come to CSU is incredible,” said Ken Wilson, head of the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. “I’m excited for our students and faculty who will now have opportunities to engage and work with him. His influence in conservation is far-reaching as evidenced by him being a finalist for the Indianapolis Prize in 2014 and a nominee again for 2016.”
The prestigious Indianapolis Prize is given every other year to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to conservation efforts. Winners receive the prestigious Lilly Medal and $250,000.
In 2013 Berger won the Aldo Leopold Conservation Award from the American Society of Mammalogists and is a past winner of the LaRue III Award from the Society of Conservation Biology for lifetime achievements in conservation.
“I’m singularly ecstatic to be here at CSU, which in my mind has the absolutely finest program in conservation and wildlife on any continent,” Berger said. “My colleagues here, to be honest, just rock, not to mention opportunities to do so much in Colorado and beyond. Let’s face it, the planet has many challenges and Colorado is such fertile ground from which to base and to make a difference, from education and mentoring to research and putting in place effective policies.”
The Barbara Cox Anthony University Chair in Wildlife Conservation is made possible through a donation from James Cox Kennedy with the intention of enhancing opportunities or research on wildlife populations, especially related to big game conservation, and encouraging collaborations to solve state, national, and international wildlife issues.