August 25 is the birthday of National Park Services (NPS), but according to College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alumnus and current master’s student, Russell Galipeau, NPS should be celebrated every day.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree majoring wildlife ecology and conservation in 1982, Galipeau began his career with NPS. Galipeau traveled the country on assignment to parks like Yosemite, Everglades and Wrangell-St. Elias, but felt his greatest accomplishment was recovering the island fox at the Channel Islands National Park, California, while Superintendent. Galipeau retired after 40 incredible years with NPS.
“We took a broken ecosystem and put it on a path of recovery and resiliency. We showed the public that if you value something, you can save it and you can protect it,” said Galipeau. “This is important – because if you can’t do this in a national park, then where can you?”
According to Galipeau, National Parks serve as a permanent reminder for who Americans are, as they tell our stories and remind people to connect with nature, a concept Galipeau has dedicated his life to. Besides his 40-year career with NPS, Galipeau is also a lecturer for California State University Channel Islands.
Galipeau co-developed a course called, “The National Parks.” The goal of this course is to introduce National Parks to students, and often fills within 15 minutes because of its popularity.
“It is so rewarding to introduce students who have never been to a National Park and to see their faces when they gaze at Yosemite Valley for the first time or see the night sky at Mojave,” said Galipeau. “It is priceless.”
In addition to this course, Galipeau created a research field station on Santa Rosa Island one of California’s Channel Islands. Galipeau credits the Austin Cary Forest as a “treasure” that framed his thinking while creating the research field station. Similar to Austin Cary, the research field station provides students with a space to learn inventory and monitoring, build data sets to study and gain hands-on experience within a natural resources system.
Galipeau leads by example, showing his students life-long learning is important for being an active member of the conservation community. In 2018, Galipeau returned to UF as a master’s student in Natural Resources Policy and Administration because he felt it was time to share his experiences with future nature resource managers and conservationists.
Some of his experiences include being appointed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for an expert panel, serving on the California Biodiversity Coalition, and working with the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.
With all of his experience and dedicated years to advocating for National Parks, Galipeau turns to the next generation for hope. Galipeau said, “it is time to defend and fight for what we love.”