Science plays a leading role in The Nature Conservancy’s work. It helps inform effective strategies and measures our success. All of our scientific research helps guide us so that we can better protect our lands and waters.
In Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, the Conservancy’s science team is working to protect our grasslands, forests, wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams for nature and people.
Our researchers are looking at everything from the effects of grazing and fire on prairies to how climate change will transform our northern forests. We’re also studying how conservation can help mitigate flooding and improve water quality.
We’re not doing this work alone. We collaborate with scientists from all levels of government as well as universities and colleges and other conservation organizations. Our preserves also serve as outdoor laboratories to researchers.
Preserves owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy are available for conservation-related research projects that are compatible with our mission. A permit is required for any research project conducted on Conservancy land.
The Conservancy has identified a number of priorities for collaborative research (PDF, 229 KB). Some of these projects are ongoing, and we are seeking funds for others. Please let us know if you are interested in pursuing one of these topics in partnership with us.
How to Apply for a Research Permit
To apply for a research permit, please download and fill out our application (.DOC, 156 KB), and send it to us electronically, if possible. Appropriate Conservancy staff will be involved with reviewing the application, including scientists, land managers and program directors. We also coordinate with staff of other agencies, in particular the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, for many of our research permits.
We strongly advise prospective researchers to submit completed applications early. We strive to provide good service and to keep the application process as simple as possible. Depending on the complexity of the request, necessary reviewers, staff availability and other factors, it may take as long as a month to issue the permit. A permit will be issued within one month of receipt for those projects that qualify.
Examples of Past Research Projects on Conservancy Preserves
• Lichen inventories for the Great Plains
• Documentation of genetic variation in bur oak populations of the Minnesota River Valley
• Comparison of soil organic carbon in restored vs. native prairies of the Agassiz Beach Ridges
Small mammal inventories at a particular preserve
• Habitat fragmentation effects on pollination and herbivory of narrow-leaved purple coneflower
• Assessment of bird communities within the Red River Prairie and Tallgrass Aspen Parkland Provinces of northwestern Minnesota
• Effects of land management on native arthropod diversity in the Agassiz Beach Ridges
Eligibility to Conduct Research
We welcome all researchers to apply. Past researchers have included university professors, undergraduate and graduate students, independent consultants and agency scientists.