Ecosystem Ecology

William Halvorson

Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment
Related Departments, Schools or Colleges and/or Program(s): 
Ph.D., Botany, Arizona State University,1970
(520) 670-5612
Photo of Bill Halvorson

Bill Halvorson’s theme song is Geoffrey Mack’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.” (made famous by Hank Snow and Johnny Cash). By the time he was ready to go to high school he had already lived in Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and four different places in Phoenix and been to nine different schools. School then stopped the travel for a while, but off he went with a PhD for eight years at the University of Rhode Island and in the next ten years went from there to Denver, Washington, DC and Virginia, and finally southern California with the Department of Interior. His job as an Ecologist with the Department of Interior has taken him to every state in the Union except Alaska. And he has traveled and worked in Canada, Mexico, England, Germany, Spain, India, and Australia. Trained as a plant ecologist, Bill quickly realized that landscape management was far more needed by land management agencies and was the first to detail the locations of the Ocean State’s (Rhode Island) salt marshes. The atlas was finished in 1975, almost 200 years after statehood and still no state agency was monitoring. After teaching at URI, Bill went to work for the Department of Interior and keeping with his life’s theme has worked for five different agencies in four different cities, all because of reorganizations that moved him around. Even while here at the University of Arizona (since 1992), he has been in the National Park Service, the National Biological Survey, The National Biological Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey, all without changing offices.

In the last twenty years, Bill has focused his work on management and restoration of natural systems, primarily within the National Park Service. Much of this work has been related to the fact that in the late 1980s the NPS had a very small science staff and none of the lands it was managing even had complete lists of species. Since the late 80s Bill has been one of pushers of the NPS inventory and monitoring programs, assisting with the pioneering programs at Channel Islands National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the national management of the program, and finally with the I & M program in the Sonoran Desert Network of 11 management areas in southern Arizona. While working at Channel Islands National Park, restoration of natural systems was as important as inventory and monitoring because of the history of the islands before they were taken or bought by the federal government for management by the National Park Service. This work led Bill to get involved from day one with the Society for Ecological Restoration which started in 1988. He became a member of the Board of Directors in 1993 and stayed in that position until August 2007. In addition he has served to help in the development of international conferences by being the program chair for three of the last five conferences and serving on the conference committee for the other two. This previous work has led Bill into the arena of landscape management that includes protected natural areas and areas with socio-economic development, studying the relationships between natural area protection and human ecology of the surrounding areas. He is now studying impacts of socio-economic development on protected natural areas and the restoration and redevelopment of damaged landscapes with an eye toward revitalizing them for economic welfare of people living in those landscapes. Understanding these relationships and maintaining healthy landscapes is only way that humans will be able to live sustainably on this finite resource we call earth.