Bob DeMicco

For immediate release


(212) 854-8181

Nov. 23, 1998



Environmental Center at Columbia

Wins $1 Million MacArthur Grant

Funds Will Bring Biodiversity Researchers From Third World to New York


The Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University has won a million-dollar grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to train a new generation of environmental leaders from developing countries.

The Center, also known as CERC, is a consortium of five institutions: the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Botanical Garden, the Wildlife Conservation Society (formerly the New York Zoological Society) and Wildlife Preservation Trus t International, as well as Columbia.

In each of the five years over which it will be administered, the MacArthur grant will provide two graduate fellowships, two visiting scholar fellowships, three mid-career training fellowships for environmental professionals and funding to bring si x highly placed international environmental officials to CERC's Environmental Leaders Forum, held each spring.

A principal challenge faced by environmental conservationists is that much of the world's biological diversity is located in developing countries that are still creating a native environmental science capability. Dan M. Martin, director of the Foun dation's Program on Global Security and Sustainability, who will administer the funding, said: "The MacArthur Foundation's award, focused as it is on the scientific communities of developing countries with high or unique biodiversity, will help the CERC c onsortium use its extraordinary range ofresearch and teaching expertise to meet this most pressing and important


Don J. Melnick, director of CERC and professor of anthropology and

biological sciences at Columbia, said: "This important funding from the MacArthur Foundation will enable us to bring in a new international group of scholars and practitioners, who in turn will enrich biodiversity conservation communities and activitie s in their home countries."

CERC's Environmental Leaders Forum, a ten-day intensive workshop with international wildlife and environmental officials, helps the attendees develop strategies to carry out their individual mandates for biodiversity conservation. The third annual forum, held in May 1998, discussed conflict between humans and animals, from direct predation to exchange of pathogens. The fourth forum, in May 1999, will focus on ecosystem fragmentation.

Mid-career professional training in environmental science is provided by CERC's Morningside Institute. Professionals in conservation-related fields from the United States and around the world are able to round out their academic background, gain ne w skills and profit intellectually from interaction with other professionals, students and researchers. The MacArthur grant specifies that mid-career fellowships are to be focused on individuals from developing countries of high or unique biodiversity.

The graduate fellowships also will be awarded to nationals of developing countries to attend either CERC's Ph.D. program in ecology and evolutionary biology or its new masters program in conservation biology.

These education and training programs have benefited greatly from the teaching, advising and professional mentoring of more than 30 adjunct faculty from the CERC institutions. Similarly, the five institutions' array of research sites around the wor ld has created a unique set of opportunities for practical experience and scientific research on a vast international scale.

CERC is a part of the Columbia Earth Institute, the University's initiative to develop strategies for wise stewardship of the planet.