Aerial view of broad stretch of beach on Hog Island, Virginia
Hog Island Aerial view of Hog Island, Virginia, one of fourteen barrier and marsh islands protected by the Virginia Coast Reserve. © Peter Frank Edwards

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Volgenau Family Recognized for Decades of Support

The Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve honors Dr. Ernst Volgenau and his family for their conservation impact over more than three decades.

As part of The Nature Conservancy’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of its Virginia Coast Reserve, the organization announced the renaming of its conservation program on the Eastern Shore in recognition of The Volgenau Foundation’s long-term support of the organization.

The Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve honors Dr. Ernst Volgenau and his family for their conservation impact over more than three decades supporting TNC projects from Virginia to California.

While the Volgenau family has supported some of TNC’s largest success stories—from the Atlantic to the Appalachians in Virginia and also touching down on the Pacific coast—this renaming befits the family’s special connection and ongoing commitment to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where their partnership with TNC began.

To mark the program’s 50th anniversary, the foundation’s most recent contribution is a leadership gift of $5 million, which they hope will inspire others to support the next half-century of innovative science and conservation in one of Virginia’s most iconic landscapes.

The core protected area features 14 undeveloped barrier and marsh islands—the longest expanse of coastal wilderness remaining on the East Coast—as well as mainland harbors and seaside farms such as Brownsville Preserve, which serves as reserve headquarters.

Having piloted community-based conservation, developed robust outreach and education programs, contributed landmark migratory bird research, and pioneered techniques for restoring critical habitats such as oyster reefs and seagrass meadows, the Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve has garnered international attention and acclaim. Recognized as a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve, U.S. National Natural Landmark and National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research site—among other designations—the reserve continues to produce globally significant science and innovative conservation.

At a time when we face mounting challenges from climate change, The Volgenau Foundation’s generosity helps ensure that TNC continues to be a global leader in understanding and advancing coastal resilience.

State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Virginia

“The Nature Conservancy’s Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve is one of the most important living laboratories in the world,” says Locke Ogens, TNC’s Virginia director. “At a time when we face mounting challenges from climate change, The Volgenau Foundation’s generosity helps ensure that TNC continues to be a global leader in understanding and advancing coastal resilience.”

 “The Eastern Shore of Virginia is one of those rare places in America that retains the character and natural splendor that our family was drawn to more than three decades ago. We made a commitment to help The Nature Conservancy protect this ecological system in concert with the communities who depend on these lands and waters, and we are gratified by the difference we’ve made and will continue to make toward solving our climate crisis and reconnecting children with nature,” said Dr. Ernst Volgenau.

Recently, The Volgenau Foundation has focused on community conservation partnerships, such as TNC’s coastal resilience and environmental education initiatives. Over the years, Volgenau funding has supported projects ranging from science-focused internships to a kayak launch and barrier island interpretive trail used for education programs to a cottage that houses visiting staff, student researchers and scientists from around the globe.

Moreover, family members have invested their own time to pitch in on a variety of volunteer projects: helping build oyster reefs, creating educational species storyboards, participating in bird counts, tagging sharks and collecting seeds for the world’s largest seagrass restoration.

The Nature Conservancy established its Virginia Coast Reserve in 1970. The Volgenau Virginia Coast Reserve now protects approximately 40,000 acres and has worked in partnership with local, state and federal entities toward the conservation of 130,000 acres in all on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.