In mid-September, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation announced $4.5 million in grants to launch the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at universities around the country, including a $1.5 million grant to the University of Florida for a partnership with institutions across the U.S., including the University of Idaho.
The program will provide undergraduate students with training and mentored research activities in conservation biology and other disciplines relevant to land, water and wildlife conservation.
At the University of Idaho, the program will be located in the College of Natural Resources, led by Kerri Vierling, associate professor of fish and wildlife sciences, as well as Christine Moffitt, professor of fish and wildlife sciences, and Courtney Conway, unit leader of Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research at CNR. A key feature of the multi-year program is the opportunity for students to work alongside natural resource professors, graduate students and professionals who have agreed to serve as mentors. Those students will also be exposed to career options in conservation and will network with natural resource professionals, including those from underrepresented communities.
“Students will go out in the field, do fieldwork with grad students and faculty, and be immersed in natural resource research,” Vierling said. “At the end of their research experience students will have conducted an independent research project and will present their findings to other students, faculty and groups such as K-12 students. Over the course of the multi-year experience, students will learn not just about science but about communicating science to a variety of audiences.”
Andrew Bowman, program director of the Environment Program at DDCF, said: “More than ever the conservation field needs to increase its efforts to attract, train and employ individuals from communities that today are largely absent from the conservation workforce.
“The ultimate objective of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program is to foster an increase in the number of undergraduate students from groups currently underrepresented in the conservation workforce who choose to pursue studies and a career in conservation. To that end, the program will serve students who not only have a budding academic interest in conservation, but are also committed to increasing the diversity of students and professionals in the conservation field.”
“In the natural resources field, it’s important to have voices with different perspectives giving input about how to solve problems,” Vierling said. “It’s also critically important for young people from underrepresented groups to have role models that are actively engaged in conservation.”
In addition to the University of Idaho and the University of Florida, the program and partnership includes North Carolina State University, the University of Florida, Cornell University and the University of Arizona. Students will be recruited into the program at those five institutions. Partnering agencies include the United States Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units, and state, federal and tribal agencies and organizations.
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse and neglect, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The DDCF Environment Program enables communities to protect and manage wildlife habitat and create efficient built environments.
For more information about the program, please visit the program website.