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:
James C. Carrington, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Gretchen Daily, Stanford University
Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University
Ana Parma, CONICET, the Argentine Council for Science and Technology
Steve Polasky, University of Minnesota
Hugh Possingham, The Nature Conservancy
Mary Ruckelshaus, Stanford University
Jorge Soberon, University of Kansas
P. Roy Vagelos, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
Dr. James C. Carrington, President of the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO, is internationally recognized for his research on gene silencing, the functions of small RNA, and virus-host interactions. His work in the small RNA field has focused on mechanisms through which plants and other organisms use non-coding RNA to control growth and development and to defend against viruses. His awards include the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, the Ruth Allen Award from the American Society for Phytopathology, and the Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He was elected as a Member of the National Academy of Science in 2008, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Phytopathological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Carrington earned his B.S. in Plant Sciences at the University of California, Riverside. After receiving his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, he served on the faculties at Texas A & M and Washington State universities. Prior to joining the Danforth Center, he served as Director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing (CGRB), the Stewart Professor for Gene Research, and Distinguished Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University.
Gretchen Daily is Bing Professor of Environmental Science at Stanford University, Director of the Center for Conservation Biology, and co-founder and faculty director of The Natural Capital Project, an international partnership whose goal is to improve well-being of people and the environment by mainstreaming the values of nature into major resource decisions globally. Daily's work spans scientific research, teaching, public education, and working with leaders to create innovative and practical approaches to environmental challenges. Her scientific research is on biodiversity change; harmonizing biodiversity conservation and agriculture; quantifying the production and value of ecosystem services; and new policy and finance mechanisms, and governance systems, for integrating conservation and human development. Daily is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.
Dr. Lubchenco is a world renowned environmental scientist who has deep experience in the worlds of science, academia, and government. She is a champion of science and of the stronger engagement of scientists with society. She was the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from 2009-2013. Nominated by President Obama in December 2008 as part of his “Science Dream Team,” she is a marine ecologist and environmental scientist by training, with expertise in oceans, climate change, and interactions between the environment and human well-being. To introduce her to his Senate colleagues for her confirmation hearing, Senator Ron Wyden called Lubchenco ‘the bionic woman of good science.’
Ana Parma is an expert in fisheries modeling, assessment and management. Her research interests center on the study of fisheries from different angles, ranging from technical aspects of fish stock assessments, modeling and the design of robust management procedures, to institutional aspects of decision-making and fisheries governance. After working for 15 years at the International Pacific Halibut Commission in Seattle, she returned to Argentina in 2000 to become a research scientist with CONICET, the Argentine Council for Science and Technology. With that move, the scope of her work broadened to include coastal reef and shellfish fisheries, with a focus on spatially explicit management approaches and the evaluation of formal and informal rules to regulate fishing access privileges. She has been involved in several technical and policy advisory boards, including various US National Research Council committees. She currently leads a project aimed at providing technical support for the development of a management plan for a multiple-use coastal marine protected area in Patagonia.
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.
Hugh is The Chief Scientist of The Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest environmental non-government organization. He has a variety of broader public roles advising policy makers, conservation groups and managers by sitting on committees and boards including: The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists (founding member), founding editor of Conservation Letters (an international scientific journal), The Myer Foundation Environment committee and several Environmental NGO scientific advisory committees. In 2016, Hugh was elected a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious science academy in the world. The Possingham lab uses mathematics to formulate and solve problems for saving plants, animals and ecosystems. They developed Marxan, the most widely used conservation planning software in the world.
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.
Dr. Vagelos is chairman of the Board of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and previously served as chief executive officer of Merck & Co., Inc. from July 1985 to June 1994 and as its chairman from April 1986 until his retirement in November 1994. Previously, he was executive vice president of the worldwide health products company and, before that, president of its Research Division. Earlier, he served as chairman of the Department of Biological Chemistry of the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis and as Founding Director of the University's Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences (1966-75). His internship and residency was at Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by senior positions in cellular physiology and biochemistry at the National Heart Institute (1956-66). The author of more than 100 scientific papers, Dr. Vagelos is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. He is chairman of the Board of Advisors of Columbia University Medical Center and serves on the boards of the National Math and Science Initiative and the Scientific Advisory Board of the Chemistry Department of the University of Pennsylvania.