Annual Report & Financials

Bigger, Faster, Smarter

Our 2018 Annual Report

Boat drone orthomosaic image of the mapping of Catalina Island, DR (right near Catalinita, all in the Southeast Marine Sanctuary in DR we help protect). Boat drone imagery is one of the 4 layers of data assessment being used for the Caribbean coral mapping project (satellite imagery and aerial hyperspectral sensor imagery are used for mapping and boat drone imagery, and people diving below water are used to corroborate this mapping. the boat and aerial drone data gathering – is completed by TNC. We use it for things unrelated to the CAO work but it will also be combined with the CAO data that is gathered to create the region-wide map of coral reefs across the Caribbean. The goal is that after the Caribbean region is completed, this initiative can be used as a model to help marine regions across the globe map their coral reef ecosystems to better protect and restore them. 
In terms of the ‘bigness’ of the work, Steve Schill (TNC) says we are really the only organization he knows of that is combining these technologies (boat and aerial drone, hyperspectral imaging from CAO plane, Planet satellite) to create coastal habitat maps
Coral Mapping Layer Boat drone orthomosaic image of the mapping of Catalina Island, DR (right near Catalinita, all in the Southeast Marine Sanctuary in DR we help protect). Boat drone imagery is one of the 4 layers of data assessment being used for the Caribbean coral mapping project (satellite imagery and aerial hyperspectral sensor imagery are used for mapping and boat drone imagery, and people diving below water are used to corroborate this mapping. the boat and aerial drone data gathering – is completed by TNC. We use it for things unrelated to the CAO work but it will also be combined with the CAO data that is gathered to create the region-wide map of coral reefs across the Caribbean. The goal is that after the Caribbean region is completed, this initiative can be used as a model to help marine regions across the globe map their coral reef ecosystems to better protect and restore them. In terms of the ‘bigness’ of the work, Steve Schill (TNC) says we are really the only organization he knows of that is combining these technologies (boat and aerial drone, hyperspectral imaging from CAO plane, Planet satellite) to create coastal habitat maps © Steve Schill/TNC

“TNC has done the science. We’ve run the numbers. We know that a sustainable world is possible if society makes big changes nowAnd at TNC, we have the responsibility to help lead the way.

By applying what we’ve learned from 68 years of conservation experience, collaborating with experts across sectors and taking our work to a global scale, we really can make a difference. Together we can all work bigger, faster and smarter to create a world in which people and nature thrive.”

- Mark Tercek, CEO

Our 2018 Annual Report

Protecting the lands and waters on which all life depends demands that we now work bigger, at the scale that nature compels, faster, to outpace the world’s destructive forces, and smarter, tapping the innovation and technologies that promise solutions in a rapidly changing world. 

In the annual report that follows, we hope to inform about the year just completed, but also inspire with a vision of where we are going with your support. 

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Bigger: In Pursuit of Wide Open Spaces

Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve, a critical juncture between Northern and Southern California
Dangermond Preserve Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve, a critical juncture between Northern and Southern California © Peter Montgomery/The Nature Conservancy

There's no place like it on Earth. Eight miles of pristine Southern California coastline. Nearly 25,000 acres of grassland, oak and cypress forests, chaparral and coastal scrub. Home to 14 endangered species. The Nature Conservancy purchased this land last year thanks to Jack and Laura Dangermond, philanthropists, conservationists and co-founders of Esri, who made a transformative and timely philanthropic gift of $165 million to the organization. This private donation is the single largest philanthropic gift in TNC’s history. 

TNC's Dangermond Preserve, California. Aquatic ecologist for California's Stewardship program Larry Serpa surveys a stand of coastal live oak woodlands with Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve Director Michael Bell.
Dangermond Preserve, CA TNC's Dangermond Preserve, California. Aquatic ecologist for California's Stewardship program Larry Serpa surveys a stand of coastal live oak woodlands with Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve Director Michael Bell. © Bill Marr/TNC

Acquiring and protecting this “crown jewel” coastal property has been a top conservation priority for decades. Located where the cold-water currents of the Northern Pacific collide with the warmer waters of the Santa Barbara channel, the property’s unique location makes for a very rare opportunity to study the convergence of four unique ecoregions and seven habitats in one place.

Under TNC’s protection, it will never be developed. But the work is only beginning. Land assessments will inform habitat restorations. And with the help of the Dangermonds, the vision is for this place to become one of the most studied preserves in the world, outfitted with a network of sensors that will help build and constantly update a "digital twin" of the property. The study and management of this preserve will help guide future conservation efforts in California and beyond. That is how something big becomes even bigger.

Faster: Accelerating Conservation's Disruptors

Our world is seeing a revolution in the ways great companies deliver traditional services and products. Former startups like Lyft, Airbnb and Spotify have harnessed technology to rapidly create entirely new markets or disrupt existing ones. Imagine if we could apply this model to save the planet. 

"Do more faster!"

That’s the motto of Techstars, a Colorado-based firm dedicated to developing and capitalizing promising technology startup businesses. This year Techstars teamed up with The Nature Conservancy for a first-of-its kind partnership to identify entrepreneurs with commercially viable technologies to solve the greatest challenges facing nature and people. 

Sustainability Accelerator
Techstars Sustainability Accelerator © The Nature Conservancy

With the world’s population projected to grow to 10 billion people by 2050, entrepreneurs in the Techstars Sustainability Accelerator will be challenged to refine technology that can be rapidly scaled to help provide food and water sustainably and tackle climate change. Over the next three years, TNC and Techstars will accelerate 30 such potential ventures that promise to serve the partners' highest conservation priorities.

A rigorous three-month residency includes intensive collaboration and mentoring with leaders in science, business, finance and other disciplines, resulting in a “demo day” to showcase their technologies to potential investors for subsequent funding rounds.

Smarter: By Air, By Space, By Sea

Boat drone orthomosaic image of the mapping of Catalina Island, DR (right near Catalinita, all in the Southeast Marine Sanctuary in DR we help protect). Boat drone imagery is one of the 4 layers of data assessment being used for the Caribbean coral mapping project (satellite imagery and aerial hyperspectral sensor imagery are used for mapping and boat drone imagery, and people diving below water are used to corroborate this mapping. the boat and aerial drone data gathering – is completed by TNC. We use it for things unrelated to the CAO work but it will also be combined with the CAO data that is gathered to create the region-wide map of coral reefs across the Caribbean. The goal is that after the Caribbean region is completed, this initiative can be used as a model to help marine regions across the globe map their coral reef ecosystems to better protect and restore them. 
In terms of the ‘bigness’ of the work, Steve Schill (TNC) says we are really the only organization he knows of that is combining these technologies (boat and aerial drone, hyperspectral imaging from CAO plane, Planet satellite) to create coastal habitat maps
Boat drone image of the mapping of Catalina Island, DR (right near Catalinita, all in the Southeast Marine Sanctuary in DR we help protect).
Orthomosaic mapping of coral from drone At left is a composite image of hundreds of photos from a GPS-guided boat drone over a coral reef near Catalina Island, Dominican Republic. It's part of an effort to map corals in unprecedented detail to better protect them. At right is the same composite image colorized to reveal habitat structure.

Coral reefs are an iconic and essential part of the Caribbean. And though they’ve been declining in the region for decades due to overfishing, pollution and the effects of climate change, there is hope. By combining TNC expertise and the latest technology in satellite and hyperspectral imagery, we are creating the first-ever high-resolution maps of coral reefs and coastal habitat throughout the Caribbean.

Dr. Greg Asner of the CAO and Dr. Joe Pollock, Coral Strategy Director for TNC in the Caribbean, analyze data being monitored by the CAO aircraft, while on a fly over mission.
Constellation - analyze Dr. Greg Asner of the CAO and Dr. Joe Pollock, Coral Strategy Director for TNC in the Caribbean, analyze data being monitored by the CAO aircraft, while on a fly over mission. © Marjo Aho

Along with Planet, a company specializing in state-of-the-art satellite imaging technologies, and the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, an aircraft with hyperspectral imaging sensors, we are piloting a new level of coral understanding in the Caribbean—providing never-before-seen detail that can support smarter planning and decision-making.

Drone, hyperspectral and satellite imagery provide three layers of coral reef data that are validated by scuba-diving scientists and will be used by TNC and partners to improve marine protected area design, inform coral restoration, and quantify the vital role reefs play in protecting coasts and communities. With this unprecedented detail captured by plane and satellite, we can support better, smarter conservation for these critical ecosystems. 

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