What's Behind The Joyce Foundation's Focus on Marine Conservation in the Great Lakes?

Marine conservation isn't just about preserving the ecosystems in the world's oceans, though most foundations focus their conservation efforts on the big four (or if you're being picky, the big five). The Southern ocean is relatively new. The Joyce Foundation concentrates its marine conservation not on largest bodies of saltwater, but on its freshwater cousins — The Great Lakes.  

The Joyce Foundation is based in Chicago, not far from the banks of Lake Michigan (see Joyce Foundation: Chicago Grants). It was established in 1948 by Beatrice Joyce Kean, whose family made their money in lumber. When Mrs. Kean died, she left the majority of her wealth — over $100 million to the Foundation which now holds over $760 million in assets. One of the Foundation's major points of interest is protecting, conserving, and restoring the Great Lakes Basin.

Some may think of the Great Lakes as small compared to the world's oceans. That's true, but, the Great Lakes are one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water, beaten out in size only by the polar ice caps and Lake Baikal in Siberia. If you're talking about domestic fresh water, the Great Lakes comprise 95% of the fresh water supply in the United States. Given those facts, I think the Great Lakes are a pretty big deal, and the Joyce Foundation concurs.

In 2011, the Foundation made over $4.5 million in grants to environmental, education and social causes. Over 40% of its grants were awarded to programs working to protect, conserve, and restore the Great Lakes Basin. (Read vice president of programs, Gretchen Crosby Sims' IP profilie).

The Great Lakes, just like the world's oceans, face a number of threats to their ecosystems from invasive species to pollution. However, the one threat the oceans don't face is water withdrawals. Water withdrawals are exactly what they sound like — states suffering major droughts want to stick their straws into the nearest Great Lake and take a big long pull of fresh water. When that occurs, entire ecosystems can wind up depleted or destroyed altogether. The Joyce Foundation isn't having any of that.