Passionate about supporting biodiversity conservation, Jeff and Laurie Ubben made a $5 million gift to Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and a companion gift of $20 million to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in support of wildlife conservation programs at WWF and environmental research and education at Duke.
$500,000 of the Nicholas School fund has been matched through Bass Connections to support year-long project teams led by Nicholas School faculty focused on biodiversity conservation. In Fall 2017, 13 groups of faculty submitted proposals for this special funding opportunity in conjunction with partners at WWF.
In 2018-2019, the first three funded projects deployed ocean evidence gap maps to target conservation efforts, used drones to monitor and evaluate the health of coastal ecosystems and analyzed the role that African forest elephants play in forecasting ecological changes resulting from reduction of elephant populations.
In 2019-2020, this initiative is supporting four Bass Connections project teams that are:
- Developing new microorganisms to convert plastic waste into biodegradable products
- Refining tools for coastal conservation practices to protect oyster reef ecosystems
- Assessing conservation interventions for coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses
- Understanding the impacts of gold mining on aquatic ecology in the Amazon.
Jeff and Laurie Ubben are both alumni of Duke, and Jeff is a member of Duke’s Board of Trustees.
Image: Forest elephant family group in a rainforest clearing, by Richard Ruggiero/USFWS