Biodiversity Conservation

Forest elephant family group in a rainforest clearing; Credit Richard Ruggiero USFWS

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 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. Projects in 2019-2020 developed new microorganisms to convert plastic waste into biodegradable products, refined tools for coastal conservation practices to protect oyster reef ecosystems, assessed conservation interventions for coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses, and examined the impacts of gold mining on aquatic ecology in the Amazon.

In 2020-2021, this initiative is supporting four Bass Connections project teams that are:

  • Reducing marine mammal bycatch by developing an exemplary model of legislation for countries to comply with the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act Import Provisions Rule
  • Using ocean evidence gap maps to undertake in-depth literature reviews of the relationships between select conservation interventions and social-ecological outcomes
  • Creating a lab strain of bacteria capable of rapidly degrading plastic to restore environmental health and conserve marine biodiversity

Jeff and Laurie Ubben are both alumni of Duke, and Jeff is a member of Duke’s Board of Trustees.

Additional Information

Image: Forest elephant family group in a rainforest clearing, by Richard Ruggiero/USFWS