Paul Beier: Leading International Conservation Efforts
Paul Beier, PhD
Professor, Conservation Biology
and Wildlife Ecology
College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences
Wildlife corridors are saving
populations of endangered species. One of the world's leading experts in design
of wildlife corridors is Northern Arizona University's Dr. Paul Beier. His work
has led to animal conservation successes across the globe—from California to
"Understanding how animals
move across human-altered landscapes and using that knowledge to develop
strategies such as wildlife corridors makes it possible to keep animals
abundant and healthy in our national parks and forests—our magnificent
conservation investments—even as we keep building highways and cities,"
says Beier. "All wildlife species need corridors. Animals that live at low
density, like our top carnivores, need thousands of square miles to support a
population, but even our largest parks are too small. With corridors connecting
our parks and forests, collectively their lands can maintain those species.
This strategy can be applied to any region in the world."
Connecting natural landscapes
Throughout his career, Beier has
dedicated himself to identifying important—and threatened—natural landscapes
and finding ways to keep them connected. His designs have been implemented in
many areas around the world as governments realize the dangers posed by
"There's been a huge change
in thinking about the need for corridors, especially in the last 10
years," Beier says. "Back when I was a kid, there were no interstate
highways; we built all of them in my lifetime without one shred of thought
about what they would do to wildlife populations. Then, suddenly, people began
to realize that many populations were going extinct, and other populations were
losing genetic variation needed to adapt and thrive."
Beier's passion has attracted
some excellent graduate students, including one working on a federally funded
project to understand movement and reproduction of grizzly bears and another
studying how to design corridors that will help animals adapt to climate
Inspiring in the classroom
Beier also brings inspiration to
the classroom, teaching students to use a holistic approach to study the entire
ecosystem. "In one of my Forest Ecology labs, the students walk a gradient
from relatively wild areas to increasingly urban areas and look at changes in
wildlife assemblages and discuss how humans have altered them—and not all for the
worse," says Beier. "We actually find some animals are most common
close to town."
Improving outdoor life for human
beings, too, is something Beier has taken up in his free time. He serves on the
Flagstaff Open Spaces Commission, which creates open spaces everyone can
access, including the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS). "My goal is
that everybody will be within a 15 minute walk of the FUTS and can use the FUTS
to walk out into the woods within an hour," says Beier. "So without
having to get in a car, everybody here will have access to the trail system and
be able to experience nature. The trail system does not directly help wildlife;
but in the long term, when more people know and love nature, it creates a human
connectivity that will ultimately conserve nature."
Preserving the heritage of biodiversity
Building on those connections,
Beier's work extends to global levels. He helped establish a Hippo Sanctuary in
Ghana, and advised the government of Bhutan on wildlife corridors. He is also
president of the Society for Conservation Biology, a professional organization
with more than 11,000 members worldwide. This group shares conservation ideas
to improve habitats for wildlife across the globe.
"At SCB, we promote science
and build the human scientific expertise needed for conservation, and we lobby
for good US and UN policies," says Beier. "It is important to have a
global scope, because the world's biodiversity is the heritage of everybody.
Whether or not each person ever gets to Africa to see all that magnificent
wildlife, it belongs to all of us."