Conference History

Coyote Bridge
Coyote Bridge, Escalante National Monument, Utah

Origins of the Biennial Conference

The precursor to today's Biennial Conference, known as The Biennial Conference of Research on the Colorado Plateau, began in 1991 as a means of sharing information among National Park Service researchers and land managers. Organized and hosted by the Colorado Plateau Research Station (CPRS), then a National Park Service Cooperative Research Studies Unit at Northern Arizona University (NAU), the conference sought to highlight research and resource management efforts related to the physical, cultural, and biological resources within the biogeographic province of the Colorado Plateau.

Over time, the focus of the CPRS broadened as the result of its changing institutional home. The CPRS first became a unit of the National Biological Survey and later part of the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The CPRS is now one of four research stations that compose the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center (SBSC); the CPRS and USGS remain prominent conference sponsors and partners. 

Conference participants have expanded to include other Colorado Plateau land management agencies, including Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and USDA Forest Service in addition to the National Park Service. As the conference grew in size and scope, so did the involvement of Northern Arizona University; conference sponsors now include the university's School of Forestry, the Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystem Study Unit (CP-CESU), and the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research (MPCER) among others. 

In 2015, as the Biennial Conference celebrates its 24th anniversary, the conference's focus has expanded beyond the Colorado Plateau to include the entire southwestern United States because not only are there similarities in the challenges these places face, but also a tremendous regional need to share information and solutions in the face of rapid changes. As it has matured, the conference is now considered by many an international exemplar for bringing scientists and managers together to deal with regional conservation issues. The Biennial Conference has also been uniquely open to student scientists who wish to gain professional experience through presenting their research.

A record of the conference proceedings has been published every two years. The Colorado Plateau Proceedings Series contributes to our increasing pool of fresh data, providing baseline scientific information pertinent to the Colorado Plateau's physical, cultural, and biological resources. Many of the protocols and management techniques presently being used in land management units in the region are a result of scientific work published in the proceedings.