April 17, 2012
Yellowstone’s New Science Leader
Dave Hallac is loving his new job. As the division chief of the Yellowstone Center for Resources (YCR), he oversees all science, cultural resources, and management programs for park wildlife, fisheries, and invasive species.
From bears and bison, to museum collections and archeological discoveries, YCR programs reach every corner of the park. We recently sat down with Dave to learn more about him and his role in Yellowstone.
Dave Hallac: In 2000, I took a position working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on threatened and endangered species conservation in South Florida. In addition, I was involved in planning Everglades restoration projects, which was a huge undertaking involving a complex mix of public and private agencies.
Later on, I moved to a job at Everglades National Park, continuing to focus on restoration work. Soon thereafter, I was appointed as the Chief Biologist for both the Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Park, and dealt with serious issues involving invasive species like the Burmese python. I also spent time as Site Manager at Dry Tortugas, which is 70 miles west of the Florida Keys. This was an incredible opportunity to manage a marine park with seven islands, several miles of underwater nature preserve, and a Civil War-era fort. We had to make our own water and electricity, and every boat ride to the mainland was a six-hour journey. I was hooked on the NPS mission to preserve natural systems, and responsibly manage visitor enjoyment of these beautiful places. I also got to enjoy some great fishing.
YPF: What prepared you for, or influenced, your career path?
DH: My first college course on wildlife management, at the University of Vermont (UVM), was fantastic. It definitely fed my passion for wildlife and natural systems, and I knew I wanted to work in natural resource management. After working in the private sector for a few years, I went back to UVM to get a master’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology. My research was on invasive aquatic species in Lake Champlain, and I really experienced the important relationship between good science and sound management decisions.
YPF: What surprised you about Yellowstone?
DH: The people and history of Yellowstone is impressive. I am enjoying learning more about the communities around the park, and was also drawn to the fact that so many Native American tribes have historical and continuing cultural ties to Yellowstone. Those deep human connections to place are a wonderful part of what makes Yellowstone special.
YPF: How is your family adjusting to living in Yellowstone?
DH: They’re loving it. My family has been cross-country skiing in the park, and we have been able to enjoy some downhill skiing at Bridger Bowl. Plus, living here at Mammoth Hot Springs, with the frequent wildlife at our front door, has been a treat for everyone.
YPF: What most excites you about your job, and what impact would you like to make?
DH: Yellowstone has had some big successes with bison and grizzly bear recovery, and wolf reintroduction, which puts it on the forefront of rebuilding diverse, functioning ecosystems. I want to continue that success with Yellowstone cutthroat trout and other native fish species. I think the potential to recover the cutthroat trout population is high; it will have ecosystem-wide benefits, and was part of the reason I took this position in Yellowstone.
I also want to see us continue to increase the use of applied scientific research to make sound resource management decisions. This is an important professional direction, and I want to be able to build on the reputation and success of Yellowstone.