Can Better Data Save Species? The JRS Biodiversity Foundation Thinks So

The growth of human populations has had a huge impact on other species, and in many parts of the world has led to a decline in biodiversity. As animals become extinct or are driven into smaller areas, biodiversity as a whole dwindles. To increase biodiversity, a great deal of information is needed on the population dynamics of various species, their ecology, and the effects of human actions. Management decisions require good data — a lot of good data. The JRS Biodiversity Foundation (see IP's profile here) has taken on the issue, focusing its grantmaking on organizations that collect, synthesize, publish, and interpret biodiversity data for the benefit of policymakers.

The foundation doesn't focus on the marine world specifically; however, it is open to projects that protect marine biodiversity. One such project is the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative (HRI), which received more than $100,000 from JRS in 2012. HRI is a data-driven project that collects information on coral reefs in the Caribbean. It offers biennial report cards on the ecosystem health of Caribbean reefs and has plans to develop a user-friendly online database to inform management decisions.

In previous years, the JRS Biodiversity Foundation has given to the Kenya Marine & Fisheries Institute. The institute received $13,800 in 2007, $25,349 in 2008, and an additional $246,000 in 2009 to develop a biodiversity database for Lake Victoria. The initial grant helped the institute scope out its project, including the kind of information that was readily available and the challenges that existed for data acquisition. The latter grants will help form the database, which will include information on fish and associated biota within the lake.

Although the JRS Biodiversity Foundation isn't focused on the marine world per se, grantees in the marine conservation field could do well to keep this group in mind. Considering the state of the world's fisheries and coral reefs, and the decline in marine biodiversity in general, more projects supporting marine biodiversity data would probably be a good thing. Grantees interested in taking on this challenge should consider JRS as a possible funder. The foundation tends to favor projects that will share data and tools with the public.