Mike Collopy

Mike Collopy

Mike Collopy is dedicated to making science accessible in the Tahoe Basin. Photograph by Quincy Shanks

Mike Collopy believes in bringing science to the people, and he’s spent the last decade in Reno doing just that.

“I’m trying to make science accessible to the public and give voice to the extensive research and education at Lake Tahoe. One of my roles is to help translate what scientists are doing,” said Collopy, assistant vice president for research and executive director of the Academy for the Environment at the  University of Nevada, Reno. “I want to humanize our faculty by showing their character, passion and commitment and help them be seen as regular people who care about what they do.”

That was the primary motivation behind the creation of the Tahoe Summit publication six years ago, the brainchild of Collopy and University Professor Wally Miller. “It’s also important to raise the visibility of the incredible work scientists from both the University and DRI have done and continue to do in the Tahoe Basin,” said Collopy.

In 1994, Collopy established and was the founding director of the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center (FRESC) in Cor vallis, Oregon. “A major focus of my position was to support the development and implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan,” said Collopy, “which was developed following a summit convened by President Bill Clinton in the Pacific Northwest to resolve issues associated with the conservation and management of northern spotted owls and old-growth forests.”

The administration subsequently established three interagency teams: a research team, an economic development team and an implementation team. Collectively these teams developed a comprehensive plan to provide a new vision for the management of public lands in the Pacific Northwest that protected imperiled species and ecosystems, while providingp redictable levels of timber harvest. Collopy was the only person appointed to all three teams. His primary contribution, however, was to the research team’s Forest Ecosystem Management AssessmentTeam (FEMAT) report. He was the lead author on the implementation and adaptive management chapter of the forest plan.

The plan represented the first time the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service, in conjunction with other federal agencies, developed a coordinated management approach for an entire ecological region of the nearly 25 million acres administered by these agencies within the owl’s range.

“My experience with the BLM and USGS in Oregon served me well,” said Collopy, who moved to Reno after 10 years leading FRESC, a center that remains one of the most successful in the Western United States in terms of research productivity in dealing with forest and rangeland habitat.

“When I came to Reno as the chair of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, discussions were being held about how to organize the research institutions into an entity that could better represent the Tahoe science community,” said Collopy. “We worked collectively to form the Tahoe Science Consortium (TSC) with funding from the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act. Since it was established, the TSC has worked closely with resource management agencies to provide various kinds of requested technical assistance. TSC has also had the responsibility for administering a competitive, peer reviewed process which improved both the quality of the applied research being proposed and the projects that received funding.”

Collopy also served as the co-editor of the TSC’s Tahoe Science Plan, which provided information on the state of our scientific knowledge in the basin and identified short- and long-term research priorities. This report was published in 2010 as a Forest Service General Technical Report that provided both resource managers and the scientific community with a snapshot of emerging research priorities and where information gaps existed.

Collopy is a wildlife ecologist who has directed research on birds of prey from Alaska to Venezuela. Orderly and organized by definition, he’s excelled in several key administrative posts while staying actively involved in research with his graduate students. Although not currently conducting his own research at Tahoe, he is the designated suppor ter, promoter and facilitator in pulling together scientific research

generated by university faculty in a way the public can understand and appreciate.

By Deanna Hearn

Mike Collopy, assistant vice president for research, Office of Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Research, and executive director, Academy for the Environment, is dedicated to making science accessible in the Tahoe Basin.