There are many and increasing threats to biodiversity. To protect the plants and animals that share our world, we need to understand what they need to survive – and ideally, thrive – in a warming, more crowded world. And we need to better understand how meeting those needs can align with other societal values.

To do that, our scientists conduct ecological research to elucidate conservation problems, test hypotheses and solutions, and monitor results. We collaborate with the scientific community to inform and review our work, and share our findings with scientists and conservation practitioners around the world.

Science in Action

Terrestrial | Science

Invasive Ant Removal

How can we eliminate a large-scale infestation of invasive ants – and how would we know when we have?

Marine | Technology | Science

Closing the Abalone Data Gap

Can putting technology in the hands of citizen scientists transform how abalone are managed?

2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Conservation Science Catalyst Fund - 2017 Annual Report

The Nature Conservancy deploys science to help overcome major challenges facing people and nature. In today’s fast-paced world, turning threats to nature into opportunities for conservation requires agility. The Conservation Science Catalyst Fund enables our science team to mobilize quickly — and produce the information…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Ecosystem management and land conservation can substantially contribute to California’s climate mitigation goals

D. Richard Cameron, David C. Marvin, Jonathan M. Remucal, Michelle C. Passero

Combatting climate change will require using all available tools, especially those that contribute to other societal and economic goals, such as natural resource protection and energy security. Conserving and managing natural and agricultural lands to retain and absorb greenhouse gasses (GHGs) are tools that have…


2017 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Testing a Remote Sensing-Based Interactive System for Monitoring Grazed Conservation Lands

Lawrence D. Ford, H. Scott Butterfield, Pete A. Van Hoorn, Kasey B. Allen, Ethan Inlander, Carrie Schloss, Falk Schuetzenmeister, Miriam Tsalyuk

The Nature Conservancy developed RDMapper, a web-based tool that uses satellite-based productivity estimates, rainfall records, and compliance history to identify easement properties at risk of being below the required level of RDM. TNC successfully used RDMapper in 2015 and 2016 to predict compliance across ~47,000…


2017 | Marine | Technology | Science | Video

Aquaculture by Design, Tomales Bay

Serena Lomonico, Robert Jones, Torrey Johnson, Sarah Newkirk, Sarah Lummis, Kirk Klausmeyer, John Finger, Terry Sawyer, Richard James

Aquaculture is becoming an increasingly important global food source. With this growth comes urgent, unanswered questions about the interactions of aquaculture operations—both positive and negative—and ecosystems. This video describes a collaboration between the Conservancy, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Hog Island Oyster Company aimed at…


2017 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Novel fine-scale aerial mapping approach quantifies grassland weed cover dynamics and response to management

Carolyn M. Malmstrom, H. Scott Butterfield, Laura Planck, Christopher W. Long, Valerie T. Eviner

Invasive weeds threaten the biodiversity and forage productivity of grasslands worldwide. However, management of these weeds is constrained by the practical difficulty of detecting small-scale infestations across large landscapes and by limits in understanding of landscape-scale invasion dynamics. This study demonstrates the application of a…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Dynamic conservation for migratory species

Mark D. Reynolds, Brian L. Sullivan, Eric Hallstein, Sandra Matsumoto, Steve Kelling, Matthew Merrifield, Daniel Fink, Alison Johnston, Wesley M. Hochachka, Nicholas E. Bruns, Matthew E. Reiter, Sam Veloz, Catherine Hickey, Nathan Elliott, Leslie Martin, John W. Fitzpatrick, Paul Spraycar, Gregory H. Golet, Christopher McColl, Scott A. Morrison

What if instead of buying habitat, conservationists could rent it when and where nature needs it most? The Conservancy is using predictive models of shorebird movements, data from the citizen science program eBird, and NASA satellite wetland habitat data to create a habitat marketplace of…


2017 | Freshwater | Science | Publications & Reports

Managing diversions in unregulated streams using a modified percent-of-flow approach

Darren W. Mierau, William J. Trush, Gabriel J. Rossi, Jennifer K. Carah, Matthew O. Clifford, Jeanette K. Howard

The California water rights system dis-incentivizes water management that benefits both nature and people. A strategy of diverting water when it is plentiful in the winter, and storing it for use in the summer, would mean more water security for people and more water in…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

A bustle in the hedgerow: Woody field margins boost on farm avian diversity and abundance in an intensive agricultural landscape

Sacha K. Heath, Candan U. Soykan, Karen L. Velas, Rodd Kelsey, Sara M. Kross

This paper discusses the potential for on-farm habitats along field margins as a conservation strategy within intensively cultivated landscapes. Specifically, the study examined the effects of woody field margin vegetation on winter and breeding season avian communities within diverse farm fields of California's Central Valley,…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Spatially biased dispersal of acorns by a scatter-hoarding corvid may accelerate passive restoration of oak habitat on California’s largest island

Mario B. Pesendorfer, T. Scott Sillett, Scott A. Morrison

An individual jay can cache thousands of oak seeds per year, and in so doing provide oaks a means to disperse long distances. This ecological process can be especially important in restoration of degraded habitats – like Santa Cruz Island, CA, which experienced over 150…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Equipping the 22nd-Century Historical Ecologist

Scott A. Morrison, T. Scott Sillett, W. Chris Funk, Cameron K. Ghalambor, Torben C. Rick

Historical records can provide information critical for conservation. Yet, societal investment in collection and curation of museum archives is widely recognized to be insufficient, which is a trend that disadvantages conservationists today and into the future. In response, this essay calls for a crowdsourced initiative,…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Partial support for the central–marginal hypothesis within a population: reduced genetic diversity but not increased differentiation at the range edge of an island endemic bird

K.M. Langin, T.S. Sillett, W.C. Funk, S.A. Morrison, C.K. Ghalambor

Genetic diversity is an important target in biodiversity conservation. Understanding how it tends to be distributed across ranges of species can improve conservation planning. This paper examines patterns of genetic diversity of a species with a highly restricted and geologically-bounded range, the Island Scrub-Jay.


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Managing consequences of climate-driven species redistribution requires integration of ecology, conservation and social science

Timothy C. Bonebrake, Christopher J. Brown, Johann D. Bell, Julia L. Blanchard, Alienor Chauvenet, Curtis Champion, I-Ching Chen, Timothy D. Clark, Robert K. Colwell, Finn Danielsen, Anthony I. Dell, Jennifer M. Donelson, Birgitta Eveng°ard, Simon Ferrier, Stewart Frusher, Raquel A. Garcia, Roger B. Griffis, Alistair J. Hobday, Marta A. Jarzyna, Emma Lee, Jonathan Lenoir, Hlif Linnetved, Victoria Y. Martin, Phillipa C. McCormack, Jan McDonald, Eve McDonald-Madden, Nicola Mitchell, Tero Mustonen, John M. Pandolfi, Nathalie Pettorelli, Hugh Possingham, Peter Pulsifer, Mark Reynolds , Brett R. Scheffers, Cascade J. B. Sorte, Jan M. Strugnell, Mao-Ning Tuanmu, Samantha Twiname, Adriana Verg´es, Cecilia Villanueva, Erik Wapstra, Thomas Wernberg , Gretta T. Pecl

Climate change is driving the largest global redistribution of the planet’s species since the ice age. Species redistributions present challenges for human well-being, environmental management and sustainable development. Species redistribution also poses new questions for the study of ecosystems, conservation science and human societies that…


2017 | Freshwater | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

A Global Synthesis of Managing Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Under Sustainable Groundwater Policy

Melissa M. Rohde, Ray Froend, Jeanette Howard

Groundwater is a vital water supply worldwide for people and nature. However, species and ecosystems that depend on groundwater for some or all of their water needs, known as groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs), are increasingly becoming threatened worldwide. This paper provides an overview of how…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Persistence of historical population structure in an endangered species despite near-complete biome conversion in California’s San Joaquin Desert

Jonathan Q. Richmond, Dustin A. Wood, Michael F. Westphal, Amy G. Vandergast, Adam D. Leache, Lawrence R. Saslaw, H. Scott Butterfield, Robert N. Fisher

This paper uses novel genetic approaches to document how land conversion in the San Joaquin Desert has affected population connectivity and relatedness in the endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard. The authors use these data to identify conservation areas where species could exist now and in the…