Walt Reid, David and Lucile Packard Foundation

TITLE: Director, Conservation and Science

FUNDING AREAS: Climate change, environmental science research, biofuels, marine conservation, biodiversity restoration

CONTACT: wreid@packard.org, (650) 948-7658

IP TAKE: Reid is both a scientist and a conservationist, and is roundly lauded as both. As a foundation program director, he steers much of his funding toward research and innovations that stand to advance conservation and sustainability.

PROFILE: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation funds conservation through its Conservation and Science program. This program, as the name implies, merges scientific innovation with environmental goals. Fittingly, Walt Reid has spent his career at that same intersection of protecting the environment while pursuing scientific research.

To be more specific, Reid has devoted his work largely to connecting science to public policy and real-world applications, bringing research out of the lab and into conservation work. Now, at the helm of the Conservation and Science Program for Packard—one of the largest environmental grant makers in the country—Reid oversees more than $100 million annually for basic research, conservation, and the overlap between the two.

To understand the lens through which Reid views conservation, the first thing to know is that he's a scientist. Dr. Walter V. Reid, to be exact, earned his Ph.D. in zoology (ecology and evolutionary biology) from the University of Washington and his B.A. in zoology from the University of California at Berkeley.

He has published 87 papers and five books at last count, on subjects ranging from how climate change threatens coastal diversity to the evolution of the Glaucous-winged gull. And he currently sits or has sat on the editorial boards of multiple research journals, including PLOS Biology and Ecosystems. He's also been a consulting professor with the Institute for the Environment at Stanford, the school's hub for environmental and sustainability research, which also focuses on linking scientific knowledge to action.

If that weren't dignified enough, he was recently a member of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services working group of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), a group of leading scientists who advise the Obama administration, and he won the 2013 NatureServe Conservation Award because, as they put it, "Dr. Reid has devoted an extraordinary career to protecting and restoring ecosystems and enhancing human well-being."

While he’s done his share of time in the lab, Reid seems more interested in getting the knowledge gained there out into the hands of governments and people who can put it to good use toward protecting the environment.

For example, his signature project before starting with Packard in 2006 was the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a seven-year research project that brought 1,400 scientists together to conduct a "check-up on the health of the planet," specifically with the intention of connecting the science to policymakers so they could make informed decisions. It launched in 1998 and concluded with a published report in 2005. Reid led the program’s 1998 launch and stayed on as director for all seven years.

In his current role at Packard, Reid now oversees a 14-person staff and directs huge sums of funding to support similar activity, although given the sheer size of the foundation, it's a pretty wide set of grants. The program currently has 10 subprograms, but most of the environmental grants fall under protecting oceans, coasts, and marine ecosystems, Western conservation, or working to combat climate change. Packard supports many initiatives at any given time, and it does so through a wide array of area-focused programs. Reid's Conservation and Science Program is the one that heads up conservation grants. Reid oversees a number of program officers, each one honing in on a specific sub-niche: one officer for the Gulf of California, one for Agriculture, etc. As for Reid himself, he is more of a big brain directing the effort.

Reid's grantees, as befits his background, feature many science-centered institutions. The Monterey Bay Aquarium and Research Institute, the Center for Ocean Solutions, and Fellowships for Science and Engineering are among his top recipients of long-term funding. Any other institutions fostering new ideas for reviving threatened wildlife populations, enhancing the viability of biofuels, cutting humanity’s carbon footprint, improving management of fisheries, and other conservation- or sustainability-relevant goals are likewise welcome to step up to the grant-seeking plate.

Reid has also overseen two major climate initiatives by the foundation: ClimateWorks and the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA). Both are collaborative efforts with other foundations to focus major philanthropy on effective climate solutions. With CLUA, of which Reid is on the board, he's directed efforts to promote new technology to reduce greenhouse gases in U.S. agriculture.

Conservation and Science isn't accepting unsolicited proposals. Nonetheless, Reid encourages grant seekers who have interesting ideas to drop Packard a line. It's best not to contact Reid directly, though, at least not for the initial pitch. The website lists every program officer, along with his or her department and email address. Reid advises that you first scroll through the listings to find the officer that is most relevant to your project idea, and then send him or her a short note to describe your idea and ask if Packard might like to request a proposal from you.

And keep in mind that Packard, like most foundations, operates with a limited budget. So be ready to make a compelling case for why your proposal should merit an award.

"It is not sufficient for the idea to be simply ‘consistent with’ the goals and objectives. They must provide more compelling pathways to achieve the goal and objectives than the other alternatives we might be considering," says Reid. "We are always constrained in the funds we have available, so the competition among ideas and projects to receive funding is always high." 

It's also especially important that grant seekers do their homework. That includes carefully reviewing the grant making strategies of the program in question, just to make sure that there is a fit.

"We only fund projects that we believe can play a strategically important role in the strategies that have been approved by our Board," Reid says. A recent interview with The Nature Conservancy provides insight into the topics and strategies that might appeal to Reid and that board. Reid flags "food production" as the most overlooked issue in the environmental field. He also calls out habitat loss, agricultural expansion, loss of marine habitat, and the overexploitation of fisheries as immediately pressing problems.

habitat loss, agricultural expansion, loss of marine habitat, and the overexploitation of fisheries. - See more at: http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/05/07/conservation-leaders-walt-reid/#sthash.ke2T0Xsj.dpuf

In terms of who is spearheading solving them, he has this to say:

"We used to think almost entirely in terms of policy reform, government regulation…the supply side of conservation. But there are so many things happening now with demand side approaches. In so many parts of the world, actions taken by the private sector are having a greater conservation impact than actions taken by governments."

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We used to think almost entirely in terms of policy reform, government regulation…the supply side of conservation. But there are so many things happening now with demand side approaches. In so many parts of the world, actions taken by the private sector are having a greater conservation impact than actions taken by governments. - See more at: http://blog.nature.org/science/2014/05/07/conservation-leaders-walt-reid/#sthash.ke2T0Xsj.dpuf