Conservation and the Environment
The Conservation and Environment Program is closing in December 2013 and is no longer accepting proposals or inquiries.
The Foundation's program in Conservation and the Environment is closing in December 2013. It evolved from interests originally stated by the Avalon and Old Dominion Foundations as including the preservation of natural areas and the support of "organizations concerned with increasing man's understanding of his natural environment, his relation to it, and the effects of his activities upon it." Through the early 1970s, a substantial fraction of grants supported land acquisition (principally Cumberland Island National Park) and organizations that had been supported by Avalon and Old Dominion. Between 1974 and 1979, the program supported research in energy, natural resources and the environment including oceans, and institutions working in those fields. Much of this funding went toward the training of young scientists, engineers, resource managers, and potential policy makers at colleges and universities. During the 1980s land preservation was supported through grants to the Trust for Public Land.
Beginning in 1980 the program shifted toward support of basic research on how natural ecosystems work. This became the primary activity through the mid 2000s. Emphasis was placed on support of leading institutions, innovative research, and training of promising doctoral and postdoctoral researchers at colleges and universities. Activity gradually expanded to include Latin America and then South Africa. Within the broad field of ecosystems research and training, grants went primarily for research in the fields of botany and terrestrial ecosystems because of their key importance to overall ecosystems, and because other funding sources paid the least attention to them. The program included junior faculty research grants to new faculty as they began their first tenure-track positions. We sought what G. Evelyn Hutchinson described in 1943 as "the point of view of the mind that delights in understanding nature rather than in attempting to reform her."
From 2006 through 2013 the program was devoted to a plants initiative and research bridges to South Africa. The plants initiative was designated to create a database of images and information about plants and includes type and historical specimens along with related scholarly literature, photographs, and artwork. The project attracted over 300 partner organizations from about 80 countries. Partner institutions were asked to digitize all type specimens and selected historical specimens within their holdings. The resulting database is available through JSTOR and holds about 2,500,000 images and associated data including nearly 450,000 articles linked from JSTOR. The research bridges to South Africa portion of the program sought to expand the range of collaborations among research groups at US and South African universities, particularly those that strengthened the ecosystems research program within the South African National Parks (SANParks) system.