The Nature Conservancy uses a science-based conservation approach to achieve our mission. As such, the Conservancy relies on insights and knowledge from the world of science to make our conservation work more effective. To ensure that The Nature Conservancy’s Board of Directors has access to good scientific advice, the Board membership includes several highly regarded scientists. In addition, to strengthen our ties to academic and public agency scientists globally, in September of 2005 the Board created the Science Council.
Since 2005, the Science Council has included Board scientists as well as other external experts from diverse disciplines, perspectives, experiences, and geographies. Their expertise has included marine conservation, ecology, economics, U.S. federal conservation policy, global climate change, and ecological genetics, among other research topics.
The creation of and continued support for the Science Council reflects the desire of the Board and Conservancy leadership to have access to the best science and scientists in areas critical to future conservation efforts. It also emphasizes the important role science plays in the Conservancy’s conservation approach.
Science Council Members
Current Science Council members include:
Jon Paul Rodríguez, chair, Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Investigation
Gretchen Daily, Stanford University
Jonathan Foley, University of Minnesota
Steve Polasky, University of Minnesota
Mary Ruckelshaus, Stanford University
Jorge Soberon, University of Kansas
Jon Paul Rodríguez, Science Council chair
Jon Paul Rodríguez is an ecologist at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Investigation (Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas — IVIC), and is a founder and current board member of Provita, a Venezuelan conservation NGO established in 1987. His teaching and research focuses on understanding patterns in the spatial distribution of threatened species and ecosystems, as well as the underlying causes of these patterns, and the development of policy guidelines for biodiversity conservation. He serves as deputy chair of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and leads the Ecosystem Red List Thematic Group of the Commission on Ecosystem Management of IUCN.
Gretchen Daily is an ecologist by training and a professor in biological sciences at Stanford University, but her research and interest extend well beyond ecology including finance, economics, and policy. Her primary scientific efforts concern the future course of extinction, the resulting changes in ecosystem services delivery, and the exploration of novel opportunities for the conservation of biodiversity. She collaborates with economists, legal scholars, mathematicians, and leaders in non-government organizations and the private and public world to investigate new conservation finance mechanisms and policy options to expand global conservation efforts. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Jonathan Foley is the director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of the Minnesota, where he is a professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. He also leads the IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative. Foley’s work focuses on complex global environmental systems and their interactions with human societies. He and his students have contributed to our understanding of global-scale ecological processes, global patterns of land use, the behavior of the planet’s climate and water cycles, and the sustainability of our biosphere. This work has led him to be a regular advisor to large corporations, NGOs and governments around the world.
Steve Polasky is a professor of ecological and environmental economics at the University of Minnesota. His research interests span a range of topics including biodiversity conservation, integrating ecological and economic analysis, ecosystem services, renewable energy, environmental regulation, endangered species, and common property resources. He also uses game-theoretic models to study resource extraction. Dr. Polasky also teaches are range of courses including ones on applied game theory, natural resource economics, science and policy of global environmental change, economics of the environment, environment and development economics, among others. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mary Ruckelshaus is managing director of the Natural Capital Project, a partnership of The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Stanford and the University of Minnesota to develop and apply tools quantifying the diverse values of nature. She is based in Seattle, WA, where she was a staff scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service for 13 years. Prior to that, she was an assistant professor of biological sciences at The Florida State University (1994-1997). She is also a trustee on The Nature Conservancy's Washington Board and is a past chair of the Science Advisory Board of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). Ruckelshaus has a bachelor's degree in human biology from Stanford University, a master's degree in fisheries from the University of Washington, and a doctoral degree in botany, also from Washington.
Jorge Soberon has BSc and MSc degrees in biology from the National University of Mexico (UNAM) and a PhD from Imperial College, University of London, in 1982. He was a researcher at the Institute of Ecology of UNAM, and from 1992 to 2005 he was seconded as Executive Secretary of the National Commission on Biodiversity (CONABIO). He is currently professor in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Senior Scientist at the Natural History Museum of the University of Kansas. He has published more than 90 papers, chapters in books and books, and popular science articles. In his capacity as executive secretary of Conabio he attended all the Conferences of the Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity and many peripheral meetings, often as head of the Mexican delegation.