College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

Remembering Nathaniel Gerhart

August 4, 2007

On August 3, 2007, graduate student Nathaniel Gerhart died in a fatal accident while conducting fieldwork in Indonesia. He was 32.

An NSF Fellow in Indonesia, as well as a devoted naturalist, birdwatcher and frisbee player, Gerhart was researching rain forest conservation for his Ph.D. in ESPM.

Nathaniel Gerhart

Services and memorials have been held in Jakarta and in New York, with the New York memorial available via webcast here.

Friends and colleagues will host an on-campus memorial on Sept 23 at 2 p.m., at the Faculty Club.

According to his faculty advisor, Professor Nancy Peluso, Gerhart was an example and an inspiration to many of the others in the group. He was remarkably successful at making the transition from a science background to a social science focus, yet never relinquished his love of wildlife and wildlands. He was an ardent birder, had viewed hundreds of species in his travel and work around the world, and “rediscovered” a bird species in southern Peru.

Gerhart did three years of work in the Peruvian rainforest before coming to Berkeley as an ESPM grad student in 2001. It was in Peru, in his work with communities, that he decided to devote his future studies and work to the social dimensions of conservation and environmental management.

Gerhart was a commited and extremely talented student and researcher. As a grad student here, he leaped into the study of both political ecology and Indonesia. He was awarded a 3 year NSF graduate studies fellowship after his first year here, and a FLAS (Foreign Language Area Scholarship) for studying Indonesian for another year. He was also awarded a Sumitro Fellowship for language study in Indonesia his first summer. He was typical of our students in how deeply he cared for the people with whom he worked. He was unusual in the ways he was able, in a very short time, to combine rigor in social science--and a talent for combining theory and empirical data in his writing--with his knowledge of and concern for tropical forest processes and his desire to make a difference for people.

A blog has been created to collect and share stories and reflections, found at In addition, friends and colleagues are sharing photos of Gerhart at

Nathaniel’s family has established a fund from which they hope to support some of Nathaniel’s longer term life goals, especially to help the people of the villages in which he worked in Peru and Indonesia. The Fund will be used for the education of promising young people in those communities. Donations can be made by sending a check to:

Nathaniel Gerhart Memorial Fund, c/o Gail Gerhart, 395 Riverside Drive, Apt #2B, NY, NY 10025.


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