Our science

Scientific research is at the core of our conservation campaigns.

Continuing a tradition of conservation science

The Wilderness Society is proud of the role that scientific research has played in  our many achievements in wildland conservation. From our famed founding father Aldo Leopold to wildlife biologist Olaus Murie to leading forest ecologist Jerry Franklin,   we have a long and storied tradition of leadership from some of the nation’s eminent wildland scientists.

Science is at our core and continues to be one of the most important driving forces in our conservation campaigns.  Today we work across the country – from Alaska to California to Montana to Maine – on applying ecological and geospatial science to conservation challenges facing wildlands. Our research covers diverse topics such as arctic caribou migration, fisheries science, forest restoration, fire ecology, climate change , connectivity modeling, and animal behavior to inform and promote conservation strategies that protect wildlands and preserve our unique natural heritage. 

The focus on science started in 1935 with the caliber of our founding fathers, among them naturalist and wildlife management pioneer Aldo Leopold and forestry leaders Robert Marshall and Benton Mackaye.

In those early years, our articles of incorporation were amended to stress the important role of science at The Wilderness Society. 

The particular business and objects of said society shall be as follows:

To secure the preservation of the American wilderness wherever found and for this purpose to make, initiate, and cause to be made scientific studies and investigations concerning wilderness areas, their values and uses, and to educate the public concerning the results of such studies and otherwise, particularly for the purpose of promoting the preservation of primeval and other wilderness in the United States, and to encourage its safe and appropriate use in the public interest.

These words, written by our founders, continue to guide us today. Over the years, our research has set us apart from many other conservation organizations in our ability to advocate for wilderness protection and ecosystem restoration based on ecological understanding of the lands that inspire us. Wilderness Society researchers are uniquely qualified to advance both science and conservation. 

Image above, right: Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie, by USFWS


Meet the Research Team


Greg Aplet, Ph.D., Senior Science Director (Southwest Office)

Research Interests: Fire ecology, ecosystem management, restoration, climate adaptation, and wilderness philosophy







Connor Bailey, M.S., Enterprise GIS manager

Research Interests: Spatial analysis, geographic systems, and dissemination of spatial data








Travis Belote, Ph.D., Lead Ecologist (Northern Rockies Office)

Research Interests: Community ecology, landscape analysis, climate change, connectivity 







Matt Dietz, Ph.D., Lead Ecologist (California Office)

Research Interests: Behavioral ecology, protected area representation, road ecology, human disturbance








Tim Fullman, Ph.D., Senior Ecologist (Alaska Office)

Research Interests: Spatial ecology, large mammals, wildlife movement and habitat use







Jason Leppi, M.S., Aquatic Ecologist (Alaska Office)

Research Interests: Aquatic ecology, fisheries science, hydrology, climate change









Pete McKinley, Ph.D., Lead Ecologist (Northeast Office)

Research Interests: Behavioral avian ecology, forest ecology, climate adaptation, and reserve design






Janice Thomson, Ph.D., Senior Director Landscape Analysis (Northwest Office)

Research Interests: Spatial analysis, remote sensing, and landscape assessment of energy mitigation