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 was matched through Bass Connections to support year-long project teams led by Nicholas School faculty focused on biodiversity conservation.
Since 2018-2019, this fund has supported 17 projects addressing a range of conservation issues from using drones to monitor and evaluate the health of coastal ecosystems, to analyzing the role that African forest elephants play in forecasting ecological changes resulting from reduction of elephant populations, to developing new microorganisms to convert plastic waste into biodegradable products. While making important contributions to biodiversity conservation research, these teams are also preparing and inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders, reaching 68 graduate students and 94 undergraduate students over four years.
In 2021-2022, this initiative is supporting six Bass Connections project teams:
- A City and Its River: Durham's Ellerbe Creek Watershed
- Biogeographic Assessment of Antartic Coastal Habitats
- Impact of Declining Animal Populations on Tropical Forests
- Ocean Evidence Gap Map
- Rainforest XPRIZE: Community Biodiversity Data Collection
- Understanding Monkey Movement Using Conservation Technology
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