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Center for Conservation Science & Strategy

John Sanderson

Director of Conservation Science

John’s career in conservation fell from the sky, so to speak. As an undergrad pursuing a degree in aeronautical engineering, Sanderson realized his true calling was the great outdoors. A post-college stint in the Peace Corps working on a forest program in West Africa sealed the deal. He attended the University of Vermont where he received a master’s degree in botany. It was also during this time that Sanderson developed a little-known love affair with mosses and lichens, particularly those that grow in wetlands. 

Now armed with a Ph.D. in ecology from Colorado State University, Sanderson co-directs the Center for Conservation Science and Strategy. In that capacity, John manages a staff of scientists and project directors to deliver conservation outcomes that range from ensuring adequate streamflow for endangered fish in the Yampa River to keeping hundreds of thousands of acres on the Great Plains intact to support native wildlife from prairie dogs to antelope.

Although he might be trying to understand how energy development can be compatible with sage grouse one day and discussing a new location of a globally rare cliff-dwelling plant the next, John spends most of his time working on rivers. Much of John’s energy over the past few years has been focused on a statewide planning process for meeting the water needs of Colorado’s growing population while maintaining healthy rivers. This planning process has produced a map of important streams in Colorado as well as a tool to evaluate how water management puts rivers at risk. Plans and tools are valuable, but it’s not where to conservation happens, so John also works on several on-the-ground projects. Among these projects is collaboration with municipalities to explore new ways to design and manage water supply systems and efforts with land managers to restore streamside (riparian) ecosystems. 


Native Fish Conservation Areas

Dauwalter DC, Sanderson JS, Williams JE, Sedell JR. 2011. Identification and Implementation of Native Fish Conservation Areas in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Fisheries 36:278-288

An Experiment in Collaborating for Regulatory Decisions

Lorie, M., J. S. Sanderson, and B. Werick. 2010. Halligan-Seaman Shared Vision Planning An Experiment in Collaborating for Regulatory Decisions. Report to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Fort Collins Utilities, Greeley Water and Sewer, and the Institute for Water Resources. Prepared by Resolution Planning, LLC, The Nature Conservancy of Colorado, and Werick Creative Solutions.

Watershed Flow Evaluation Tool

Sanderson JS, Rowan N, Wilding T, Bledsoe BP, Miller WJ, Poff NL. 2011. Getting to scale with environmental flow assessment: the Watershed Flow Evaluation Tool. River Research and Applications DOI: 10.1002/rra.1542. Please e-mail John Sanderson for a copy of this report.

Sanderson, J. S. 2009. Quantifying non-consumptive needs in Colorado: the Watershed Flow Evaluation Tool. Colorado Water 26:2-4.

Characterizing Environmental Flows

Rathburn, S. L., D. M. Merritt, E. E. Wohl, J. S. Sanderson, and H. A. L. Knight. 2009. Characterizing environmental flows for maintenance of river ecosystems: North Fork Cache La Poudre River, Colorado, in James, L.A., S.L. Rathburn, and G.R. Whittecar, eds., Management and Restoration of Fluvial Systems with Broad Historical Changes and Human Impacts, Geological Society of America Special Paper 451, p. 143-157, doi:10.1130/2009.2451(10)

Simulated Natural Hydrologic Regime

Sanderson, J. S., N. B. Kotliar, D. A. Steingraeber and C. Browne. 2008. The simulated natural hydrologic regime of an intermountain playa conservation site. Wetlands 23:363–377.

John Sanderson

Director of Conservation Science

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