Kathy Tonnesson of the Rocky Mountain Cooperative Ecosystems Study Unit was recently given the Department of the Interior's Superior Service Award. She is the National Park Service's Research Coordinator for the RM-CESU and an adjunct assistant research professor at the College of Forestry and Conservation. The award recognizes her exceptional career accomplishments and contributions. Since the inception of the Rocky Mountain CESU, Kathy has been an outstanding leader in the development and evolution of the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit network nationwide. She was one of the first agency representatives in the system and has provided leadership through participation in national CESU meetings and forums and served as the national program lead for the NPS CESUs from 2008-10.
Under Kathy’s leadership, the RM-CESU is the linchpin for the Intermountain CESUs, conducting monthly meetings with the Financial Assistance group to ensure currency, consistency, and overall excellence in customer service to parks. As a result the RM-CESU has become a service model for how Dept. of Interior CESU liaisons can best connect land and resource managers with the scientific community.
A major part of Kathy’s duties are to assist national parks in the Rocky Mountains region in acquiring state of the art science and technical assistance. National park managers in the Rocky Mountains and throughout the NPS consistently praise Kathy and the RM-CESU for “…being an ever-willing source of advice and counsel on research project, potential providers, funding strategies, and more…” Kathy helps NPS resource managers to:
1. understand, articulate and prioritize their science and research needs,
2. access and leverage funding to address these needs,
3. connect with a network of outstanding scientific collaborators to conduct the natural, cultural and social science research,
4. involve students in NPS research from a wide variety of backgrounds including RM-CESU tribal affiliates,
5. help to communicate and widely distribute research results, and
6. constantly improve working relationships with RM-CESU partners.
Kathy Tonnessen works with scientists, managers, tribal affiliates, faculty members, and graduate students on variety of projects that include historic structure documentation, inventory and monitoring of natural resources in parks, and climate change, to name a few. She has served as the secretary for the National Atmospheric Deposition Program and is a member of the International Air Quality Advisory Board of the International Joint Commission. For Kathy, the most rewarding aspects of her job are "Working in beautiful and fun locations to protect and preserve these areas. The fact is, the average person cares about our National Parks and wants these resources protected, and so public support is tremendous. The National Park Service has established credibility with the public and that makes it easier to work towards resource protection." Hot topics for the future include wildlife and plant diseases, predator-prey interactions, climate change, de-glaciation in Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks, and fire effects on water quality and ecosystem health. The Department of Interior’s Service Award is well-deserved for the scope, complexity, and excellence of Kathy Tonnessen’s accomplishments as NPS Research Coordinator for the Rocky Mountains CESU.