Funder's New Fellowship to Put Scientists on the Frontlines of Conservation

A new fellowship funded by Seattle-based Wilburforce Foundation is targeting the gap between science and conservation, helping researchers get their findings to communities and decision makers. 

Wilburforce, a funder that focuses on conservation in Western North America, recently announced a partnership with COMPASS, a nonprofit that helps connect scientists to the wider world. The purpose of the yearlong fellowship will be to recruit scientists who do work relevant to conservation decisions and help them engage with communities and leaders making the decisions. 

Related: Wilburforce Foundation: Grants for Conservation

The fellowship starts April 2015, and will invite 20 scientists from universities, nonprofits, and other organizations to meet for a training program and then to receive strategic support for a year to help them translate their research into conservation efforts in the regions Wilburforce works.

The program delves into the tricky and sometimes delicate area of scientists engaging in some form of advocacy, helping them approach the topic with their own level of comfort, but also strategic preparation. 

This is the latest extension of the Wilburforce Foundation’s program in Conservation and Science in the North American West. It’s one of their three programs that support environmental work in select regions stretching from Northern Mexico all the way up to parts of Alaska (although no funding in California). Aside from science-related grantmaking, Wilburforce backs work to protect and promote sound conservation law and policy, and bolsters the long-term effectiveness of nonprofits in their regions. 

Wilburforce makes about $10 million in grants a year. The source of its wealth is early Microsoft money, as it was founded by Gordon Letwin, one of the company's first 11 employees, and his wife Rose Letwin. The two are no longer together, and Rose is president of the foundation. 

The foundation's tendency to give long-term support does mean they don’t have a ton of opportunities for new grantees, but they do invite grantees with a strong alignment with their strategy to contact program officers directly. As Executive Director Tim Greyhavens told us via email, when they do take on new work or expand existing campaigns, “we seek out organizations whose work is grounded in science, and that engage in communities to increase the social and political relevance of conservation.”

Read more about the foundation's new fellowship here.