Our world faces unprecedented demands for food, water and energy — and meeting these demands without exacerbating climate change and degrading natural systems is the human challenge of our generation. The Nature Conservancy is confronting these challenges head-on — through a new set of priorities that focus on everything from green infrastructure to sustainable agriculture and fisheries, natural defenses against extreme weather to encouraging sustainable energy forms and corporate practices. We firmly believe that conservation can be a solution to sustainable well-being for billions of people.
That’s why the Conservancy has established the NatureNet Science Fellows Program in partnership with six of the world’s leading universities — Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale — to create a reservoir of new interdisciplinary science talent that will carry out the new work of conservation.
Ideal Candidate Profile
While the Conservancy will always employ naturalists and biologists and landscape ecologists, it now needs new brands of science to tackle these new challenges — science that blends economics, business, engineering, technology and communications with conservation and ecology. And addressing human well-being demands a science practice that marries the best academic analyses with opportunities to rapidly test and deploy those analyses in the real world.
Ideal candidates for NatureNet Science Fellowships are outstanding early-career scientists who seek to improve and expand their research skills while directing their efforts toward problems at the interface of conservation, business and technology.
Thematic Research Areas
Each class of NatureNet Science Fellows will work in thematic research areas, and thereby be able to interact and be able to form links across universities and other institutions. The research areas for 2013-2015 are:
1. Agriculture – Pathways to Expanding Sustainable Food Productions Systems
We seek fellows who will help develop or identify sustainable crop production systems, grazing systems, or aquaculture. Work can include assessment of alternative farming or production systems with an eye towards alternative choices on the cropping systems as well as on certification or standards that might be implemented to promote particular systems. Analyses could also include landscape studies of agricultural systems and ecosystem responses. The goal is to deliver food without damaging ecosystems or causing loss of biodiversity. In the area of agriculture, opportunities exist for collaboration between any of the above universities and the Danforth Plant Sciences Center — especially its programs aimed at tropical crop improvement.
2. Securing Clean Water in Ample Supply
We seek fellows who will help ensure that ample clean water is available to both urban and rural people. Strategies for achieving this can include technology, mitigation, regulation and watershed management. This could also include efforts aimed at reducing particular sources of pollution. We encourage combining both a landscape approach and a technology approach to the provision of clean water.
3. Energy Futures
We seek fellows who will analyze and assess alternative energy portfolios that can meet a region’s or nation’s energy needs over the next 20 years while also achieving the multiple environmental goals of minimal habitat fragmentation and degradation, reduced emissions, minimal risk to people, and sustainable water use or impact. Such work could entail thinking through how to integrate energy innovations into this environmental and portfolio approach, or engaging in discovery or development of green chemistry and engineering methods. The portfolios to be considered might include shale gas, nuclear, coal, oil and renewables.
Subsequent classes may address different areas depending on Conservancy priorities and emerging science. NatureNet Fellows will receive extensive mentoring and be given the opportunity to participate in Conservancy and international science opportunities around the world. Alumni from the Fellows program are gathered together each year.
Meet the 2015 class of NatureNet Fellows
Meet the 2014 class of NatureNet Fellows
Meet the 2013 class of NatureNet Fellows
Advisory Council and University Partners
The NatureNet Science Fellows program has a council of highly regarded academic advisors that will aid in the selection of fellows and design of research themes:
- Gretchen Daily, Stanford University
- Ruth Defries, Columbia University
- Drew Harvell, Cornell University
- Simon Levin, Princeton University
- Christopher Murray, University of Pennsylvania
- Dan Rubenstein, Princeton University
- Dave Skelly, Yale University
- Roy Vagelos, Donald Danforth Plant Science Board, chair of Columbia University Medical Center Board of Advisors, and emeritus member, University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees
Peter Kareiva, the Conservancy’s chief scientist, also serves on the Advisory Council.
Cornell University: Cornell University has a long tradition of ecological, agricultural and engineering research and particular strengths in international sustainable agriculture and ecosystem function. Recently, these disciplines have been brought together in Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. The Atkinson Center connects groups of faculty to collaboratively tackle problems related to energy, the environment, and economic development as interdependent and interconnected. The science and engineering needed to develop clean technologies cannot be separated from the ecological study of Earth's integrated human and natural systems or from the social science of human behavior and well-being.
Columbia University: Many faculty and researchers at Columbia University are engaged in research relating to sustainable agriculture, water use and energy futures. The Earth Institute provides a focal point for interdisciplinary collaborations that involve natural sciences, engineering and social sciences through 28 research centers and programs. Research within many individual units in Arts and Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science are relevant for the themes that NatureNet Science fellows will address. In particular, faculty at Columbia provide opportunities for NatureNet fellows to work on sustainable agriculture and conservation through the Earth Institute's Agriculture and Food Security Center, Center for Environmental Sustainability and the Department of Ecology and Environmental Biology.
Princeton University: Princeton University has a rich ecological tradition. The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology combine strength in ecology, behavior, conservation biology, infectious diseases, climate change and energy. The Center for Biocomplexity within PEI and various units within the Woodrow Wilson School facilitate research at the interface between human and environmental systems, and the African Studies Program complements a variety of ecological research programs in Kenya, South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent.
Stanford University: Stanford University’s Woods Institute and it’s Center for Conservation Biology feature interdisciplinary research opportunities in conservation. Of special note is the Natural Capital Project, which combines economic analysis with ecosystem sciences to identify investments that both enhance human well-being and promote conservation.
University of Pennsylvania: The University of Pennsylvania has an integrated program in energy research (VIPER), a Biology Department with several faculty members interested in conservation, and a strong sustainability program hosted through the Wharton School of Business. In addition, Penn’s Materials Science and Chemistry programs offer research opportunities in “green chemistry.”
Yale University: Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences has research centers in urban ecology, industrial ecology, green chemistry and sustainable forestry. In addition, Yale’s Center for Business and the Environment brings together the expertise from the School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences with the Yale’s School of Management to catalyze business approaches to the world's most significant environmental issues. Energy research is fostered by two University-wide institutes, the Yale Climate and Energy Institute and the Energy Sciences Institute.
For more information on the NatureNet Science Fellows program, please contact Lynne Eder, director of operations for the Conservancy’s Central Science Team, at NatureNetScience@tnc.org.