It is not an exaggeration to say that Jarvis, 59, has devoted his entire career to the national parks. After growing up surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains in Lexington, Va., and graduating from the College of William & Mary, he visited Washington, and stayed with his brother Destry, a lobbyist for the National Parks Conservation Association. It was 1976, the bicentennial year, and Jarvis landed a job at the Park Service's information center on the National Mall, welcoming and assisting millions of visitors. Over the next 37 years, he rose through the ranks from park ranger to park superintendent to regional director and, finally in September 2009, to director. "The National Park Service is a very complicated organization," Jarvis says, noting that it has 401 units, stretching from Guam to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and hosts 280 million visitors a year. A major focus of Obama's first term that will continue is the system's role as "the largest informal educational institution in the U.S.," where people can learn about everything from the Civil War to civil rights. The agency will also have a new emphasis: climate change. Jarvis said the national parks will serve as a laboratory to help the public understand important changes in America's ecosystems.