Our Science

One Conservancy Science

2023 Impact Report

Woman holding binoculars standing among trees and looking up at the sky.
Lord Howe Island Liane Davis enters observations into an electronic data recorder from a stream that feeds into Ellsworth Creek, a TNC project site at Willapa Bay in Washington. © Jordan Robins/TNC Photo Contest 2019
A headsjot of TNC's chief scientist Katharine Hayhoe.
Katharine Hayhoe Dr. Katharine Hayhoe the Chief Scientist at TNC © Artie Limmer/Texas Tech University

Letter from the Chief Scientist

Our success requires that we continue to invest in and grow the quality, diversity and consistency of our science across the organization. TNC’s One Conservancy Science Program (OCSP) integrates and connects our nearly 1,000 science staff across the globe to optimize science and innovation, amplify the power of our research and build capacity and connections that accelerate us toward our 2030 goals.

Welcome to our very first annual report. In it, we’ll summarize what we’ve accomplished together so far, and highlight some of the transformative and scalable work of TNC scientists and staff worldwide: science that is not only advancing our 2030 goals but also paving the way towards a brighter future where humans and nature can thrive. One of the first things you’ll hear anyone say about TNC is that “we are a science-based organization.” This report shows why that is true.

- Katharine Hayhoe, Chief Scientist 

One Conservancy Science Program: By The Numbers

We provide the connectivity, training, resources and support needed to deliver state of the art science to accelerate progress towards our 2030 goals.

  • People


    Science staff from 60 fields

  • Research


    2023 Publications authored or co-authored by TNC Staff

  • Money


    $ Delivered by One Conservancy Science Program to Business Units

  • Partnership


    # of participants in OCSP Programming

  • Help


    # of Business Units directly served by OCSP

  • Online


    12 monthly newsletters featuring 150 spotlighted ventures and 10 OCS webinars averaging 200 attendees per event

A headshot of Jennifer Morris the CEO of TNC smiling outside in front of tree
Jennifer Morris CEO of The Nature Conservancy © TNC

Message from our CEO

The science is clear: we must act now to halt the interconnected crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. We have years, not decades, to address these threats. In response, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has narrowed our organizational focus and committed to our 2030 goals—our biggest, most ambitious plans yet to help people and nature thrive together. To achieve these goals, we must increasingly work as One Conservancy, collaborating across programs and borders to advance our highest-impact work. And that’s why I am so excited about our One Conservancy Science Program, which is strengthening connections among our nearly 1,000 scientists and science staff across TNC; building our scientific capacity; and bolstering our expertise in key areas necessary to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.

TNC has always been a science-based organization, relying on world-class science to inform practical solutions to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises. Now, more than ever, we must ensure that these solutions are taken from idea to impact, scaling to achieve system change. That’s exactly what we aim to do through our One Conservancy Science Program, and I am excited to share this inaugural report celebrating the achievements of TNC’s scientists and partners in working towards our 2030 goals.

- Jennifer Morris, CEO

An illustrated map graphic displaying the global impact of the OCSP. Details include Science Trainings, SNAPP working groups, OCS Internal Funds, and Mentorship.
Global Impact of OCSP Where the One Conservancy Science Program touched the ground in 2023. © Julie Corina/TNC

Global Impact

A large colorful wheel graphic that breaks down the global science team structure and initiatives by the team.
TNC Science Hubs Global Science serves as the heart and hub of the OCSP delivering expertise, services and resources out across and through the rest of TNC. © Julie Cornia/TNC
The Roberts Mountains in Nevada with clouds over them.
Resilient Lands The Roberts Mountains in Nevada. © Chip Caroon/TNC

Learn more about TNC's goals

Our works aids in meeting the 2030 goals

2030 Goals
A man walking through a forest with the leaves changing colors.
Autumn Forest in Michigan Autumn at Wilderness Lakes Reserve in Baraga County, Upper Peninsula of Michigan. © Dietrich Ludwig

Tackling Carbon Emissions

Naturebase: Unlocking Nature’s Potential to Mitigate Climate Change

Science shows that natural climate solutions (NCS)—actions to protect, better manage and restore nature—can deliver up to one-third of the greenhouse gas emission reductions needed to meet Paris Agreement targets and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. However, this will require the rapid adoption of NCS globally, and decision-makers need to know where to focus their efforts and how to design projects for success. To accelerate NCS action, TNC scientists and partners developed and launched a beta version of naturebase through Nature4Climate. 

Naturebase is a free online platform which helps policymakers, practitioners and technical experts identify, analyze and make informed decisions on why, where and how to implement NCS projects with the highest carbon mitigation impact while simultaneously improving livelihoods and protecting biodiversity. The user-friendly tool brings together the latest research, policies and practical considerations to allow decision-makers to explore where to implement NCS across different ecosystems including forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands. Naturebase also provides guidance on high-integrity NCS implementation including a new Human Rights Screening Tool.

For Indigenous Peoples and local communities who have long protected their lands and waters in reciprocity with nature, naturebase can help attract direct finance for their invaluable work as stewards of nature. The platform’s Nature in Action film series elevates the voices of Indigenous Peoples and local communities and demonstrates innovation in NCS, while in-depth case studies from the NCS Prototyping Network page showcase cutting-edge science, lessons learned, and success stories.

A scuba diver planting a coral reef fragment back onto a reef section.
Coral Conservation. The Nature Conservancy is working to restore healthy coral reefs along Florida’s unique reef track that runs between Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Lauderdale. © Carlton Ward

Helping People

Innovating Financing Research to Support Natural Infrastructure

Natural infrastructure such as coral reefs and mangrove forests provide numerous ecosystem services to people, including firewood, fish habitat, and protection during coastal storms. Healthy coral reefs and mangroves decrease wave energy and storm surge heights, reducing inland flooding. 

Despite their many benefits, funding for coral reef and mangrove recovery is limited. Innovative funding models are required to support the restoration and repair of these ecosystems after storms. TNC helped to launch the first-ever coral reef insurance policy in Mexico in 2019. More recently, TNC science confirmed the feasibility of reef insurance in Hawai‘i and Florida, leading to the first US coral reef insurance policy in Hawai‘i in late 2022.

Building on this research, a new study by TNC and partners assessed the feasibility of mangrove insurance policies in Mexico, Florida and The Bahamas, where mangroves provide over US$17 billion annually in flood protection benefits to coastal communities. The report assessed the costs and benefits of coastal protection provided by mangroves and identified nine potential sites for pilot projects.

In addition, TNC led the development of a knowledge product with the Asian Development Bank that reviews the benefits of coral reefs, the risks faced by coral reefs, and opportunities to sustainably finance the protection and restoration of coral reefs in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, the next stage of work includes designing the insurance scheme and establishing the institutional relationships to purchase the insurance and manage any payouts ensuring the resources get where they are needed for restoration so that these essential ecosystems can continue to provide their benefits for both people and the planet.

A person collecting oysters for aquaculturing.
Oyster Aquaculture Bay Point Oyster Company harvesting oysters on a boat in Little Bay in Durham, New Hampshire. © ©2020 Jerry and Marcy Monkman/EcoPhotography

Protecting our Ocean

Using Aquaculture to Feed More People

Food production is a major driver of climate change and habitat loss, accounting for about one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, 90% of land use change, and 70% of water use globally. Transitioning to more sustainable food systems provides many opportunities to meet our 2030 goals. TNC scientists work on quantifying the benefits of regenerative food systems that improve food and water security, supporting communities, enhancing climate mitigation and resilience, and restoring biodiversity to benefit people and nature. This includes work on both land and water.

In countries like the Republic of Palau, where fisheries are threatened by climate change, responsibly developed and managed aquaculture can help provide an alternative source of food and employment. To help realize this potential, TNC and the government of Palau designed an interactive mapping tool to identify locations for optimal aquaculture siting. The tool accounts for dozens of factors, from water depth and ocean currents to the presence of docks and ports. The tool also helps planners avoid sensitive habitats, culturally significant sites, and other important economic activities. This easy tool, accessible to farmers and government agencies, supports Palau’s food security goals, safeguards marine ecosystems, sustains a thriving economy, and could serve as a model for similar projects globally.

In other coastal areas, aquaculture is emerging as a conservation intervention to support coral and oyster reef ecosystems while benefitting local communities, promoting species recovery, and bolstering resilience. Another recent TNC scientific study recommends how to best implement regenerative aquaculture in these ecosystems, highlighting the importance of evaluating reef systems alongside local stakeholders and Indigenous communities to determine where and when the benefits are most likely to outweigh risks.

An illustrated map graphic that shows large news outlets names listed in different continents to show the global reach of TNC science.
Media Highlights Our science has been featured across print, web, podcast and television media. This map displays some notable outlets and the global reach of TNC science. © Julie Corina/TNC
A man throwing a fishing net into a river from a small boat.
Local fishermen casting nets for fish in Colombia’s lower Magdalena River basin. Local fishermen casting nets for fish in Colombia’s lower Magdalena River basin. © Bridget Besaw

Conserving the World’s Freshwater

Safeguarding the World’s Freshwater

Freshwater ecosystems face a multitude of threats that have caused an 83% decline in freshwater species populations since 1970. To turn this around, a range of tools are needed, including dedicated protections for freshwater ecosystems. Conventional protected areas are important for freshwater conservation, but they don’t always account for the complexities of these dynamic and connected systems. One new study by TNC scientists and partners describes how creative solutions that go beyond conventional protected areas are essential to safeguard the future of global freshwater ecosystems for people and nature.

Another study by TNC scientists and collaborators finds that 85% of protected areas with groundwater-dependent ecosystems have groundwatersheds that may be underprotected—meaning some portion of the groundwatershed lies outside the protected area. The risk posed to protected areas from activity outside the areas underscores the urgent need for expanding groundwatershed-based conservation and management and diverse stakeholder engagement that goes well beyond the boundaries of protected areas.

Community-based conservation (CBC) can be an important approach to safeguarding and sustainably utilizing freshwater. But, while there is robust scholarship around CBC for terrestrial resources, there is very little for freshwater. Another new TNC study developed a practitioner's guide that comprehensively reviews and synthesizes existing research, adapting TNC’s Voice, Choice, and Action (VCA) framework to the context of freshwater. The study demonstrates how to apply traditional knowledge to co-create new science-based strategies to foster robust CBC for freshwater, as illustrated in this award-winning storymap. The VCA framework helps ensure projects create the enabling conditions that allow CBC to preserve cultural connections, achieve equity and water justice, and resolve power imbalances. 

A woman installing solar panels.
Installing Solar Panels A woman in a green shirt kneels as she installs solar panels © Eric Aldrich

Saving Healthy Lands

Siting Renewables to Benefit People and Nature

Large land areas are needed to build the global renewable energy we need to meet the world’s climate goals. However, that land use can sometimes conflict with other goals, such as preserving biodiversity and maintaining valuable agricultural lands. To address this challenge, TNC scientists are using innovative approaches to identify and monitor where renewables can be sited to minimize impacts to nature and local communities. 

In the US, TNC scientists analyzed the land use implication of pathways to net zero. They found that it’s entirely possible to rapidly deploy renewables while minimizing impacts to sensitive natural areas. A paper focused on the western US was followed by TNC’s Power of Place national report, both showing how early planning and the right incentives can minimize negative impacts and maximize benefits for climate, nature and people. These approaches used first-of-their-kind analytics to identify clean energy portfolios that minimize land use and costs and offer practical guidance to energy planners developing comprehensive net-zero strategies. The North America Renewable Energy Deployment team also produced a companion report, Voices from the West, interviewing Tribal and Indigenous communities about their experiences with energy development and highlighting the importance of including Tribal voices in planning for energy and infrastructure.

On the other side of the globe, using India as a case study, TNC scientists created the first national database of utility-scale solar. Using high-resolution satellite imagery and new AI techniques, they detected when solar farms were built and measured their footprints to determine that over 74% were built on land with high ecosystem preservation or agricultural value. The research is informing a new tool, Global Renewables Watch, a first-of-its-kind living atlas built with Microsoft and Planet to map and measure utility-scale solar and wind globally. This tool will help countries rapidly adopt renewables while siting them in a way that protects local communities and ecosystems.

In Europe, following a successful pilot in Croatia, TNC and partners used a similar approach to identify the top 100 locations for solar energy development in Serbia. We estimate that 10% of Serbian households could be powered by just those 100 sites—saving one million tons of carbon annually while minimizing impact to nature and communities. The study is now being replicated in North Macedonia and Montenegro. 

Indigenous People at the Kokraimoro village, in São Félix do Xingu, on the Brazilian Amazon.
Kokraimoro village in Brazil Indigenous People at the Kokraimoro village, in São Félix do Xingu, on the Brazilian Amazon. © © Miguel Lindenberg

Working Alongside Local Leaders

Mitigating Conversion Risk to Indigenous Peoples' Lands

As the rightful and original custodians of many of the world's remaining natural landscapes, Indigenous Peoples have proven themselves to be among the best stewards. These lands are critical to sustaining their livelihoods and cultures, as well as being vital reservoirs for biodiversity and carbon. Land conversion is the number one driver of biodiversity loss globally. Much of this is occurring due to extractive and commodity-driven development on or near Indigenous Peoples land, resulting in environmental and social injustices worldwide.

To better understand the challenges confronting Indigenous stewards, TNC scientists mapped and analyzed conversion vulnerability and risk, finding that 60% of Indigenous Peoples' lands across 64 countries is potentially at threat—an area almost seven times the size of India. This first-of-its-kind study comprehensively assesses global conversion risk to Indigenous Peoples’ lands by creating a novel index that considers factors like the security of their rights to territories and resources, opportunities for their engagement and representation in decision-making processes, and the availability of capital to support the implementation of conservation and sustainable development projects. TNC scientists then assessed country-level risk and vulnerability profiles to identify where partnerships with Indigenous Peoples may be needed most and what strategies might be most helpful in ensuring their capacity for strong governance and stewardship, based on TNC’s VCA framework.

This work directly supports Indigenous Peoples and local communities like the Awajún peoples of the upper Marañon Basin in the Peruvian Amazon. They’re navigating cultural change, over-extraction of resources from the river and forest, and development threats. To address these challenges, the Awajún, in partnership with TNC and other partner organizations, are currently undertaking community-led, participatory mapping of their territories and resources with the goal of helping to secure their territorial rights, building community capacity for natural resource governance and representation in regional decision-making, and attracting investment for the implementation of self-determined conservation and development visions. A localized and downscaled application of the global conversion risk assessment framework is helping to prioritize where else more of this type of proactive, Indigenous and community-led planning work is most needed throughout the Amazon.

The Impact of the One Conservancy Science Program

Scientists at The Nature Conservancy work on variety of projects in a variety of places. Here is a glimpse of some of our work and workplaces.

Palau Coral Reef.
Acoustic Reader Placement.
Avian Monitoring.
Young Mangroves.
Building an Oyster Reef.
Ranch Research.
Global Science Team 2023.
Brazilian Amazon.
Freshwater Conservation.
Planting Urban Trees.
A freshwater marsh surrounds a wetland at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.
Savannah NWR A freshwater marsh surrounds a wetland at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. © The Nature Conservancy

What You Can Do to Get Involved

Check out all the ways you can make a difference with TNC!