Despite the growing concern for climate and environmental change and endangered species, the list of animals going extinct around the world continues to rise. In fact, between 1998 and 2012, the number of animals going extinct grew from approximately 1,100 to more than 3,000. The growth in endangered plant life shows a similar trend over that time, with the number growing from less than 1,200 to more than 2,650. The good news is that many colleges and universities around the world are now designing programs to counteract these trends, awarding college degrees for animal lovers looking to make a difference. By educating students on what animals are in danger and how to save an endangered species, a new generation of passionate biologists, conservationists, and environmentalists is being developed. Here are 10 schools from Atlanta to India that are doing their part to preserve the world’s wildlife for the next generations.
From helping to protect plants under the Endangered Species Act to playing a large pert in the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Georgia Tech continues to show its students how to help endangered species around the world. Since 2010, Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Botanical Garden have been in a beneficial partnership led by Dr. Jerry Pullman, now Emeritus Faculty. Over the past seven years, Dr. Pullman and his students have worked with several endangered plant species, including Florida Torreya, swamp pink, Tennessee yellow-eye grass, pitcher plants, dwarf sumac, and Georgia aster. There's also the ongoing 17-year collaboration between the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) and Georgia Tech. Coordinated by Nickolas L. Faust, who was recently elected to the DFGFI board, a team from Georgia Tech began research on remote sensing GIS systems and visualization technology to study and help stimulate the waning gorilla population in Central East Africa. Since their work began, the population of these endangered mammals has made a significant comeback.
California State University Stanislaus
USC might grab more headlines in the sports world, but in the world of protecting endangered species, California State University, Stanislaus is a clear frontrunner. Since 1992, Stanislaus State's Endangered Species Recovery Program (ESRP), in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been doing its part in resisting the eradication of animals that are going extinct. The most current and recent projects have been ecological studies on five endangered animals in the U.S. and five plant species. These include the San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, giant kangaroo rat, Fresno kangaroo rat, Tipton kangaroo rat, the California jewelflower, Hoover's woolly-star, San Joaquin woolly-threads, Kern mallow, and the Bakersfield cactus. In 2011, ESRP members also rescued endangered Riparian brush rabbits from the flooding of the San Joaquin River. The research from the ESRP provides endangered species facts to researchers, such as population trends, environmental factors that influence those trends, the geographic ranges, and estimated population numbers, as well as potential habitat management strategies.
South Staffordshire College
In the village of Rodbaston, England, South Staffordshire College's Rodbaston campus has made a name for itself in the world of protecting endangered species. Thanks to the school's Animal Zone, more than 1,000 animals from more than 200 species, many of which are animals that are going extinct, have found safe refuge. The Animal Zone runs breeding programs for endangered species such as Cotton-topped tamarins. For students in the Animal Management program, the Animal Zone and the access to these endangered mammals it grants provides an incredible opportunity to learn how to care for exotic and endangered animals and how to preserve these species. Another animal going extinct that the Animal Zone continues to support and study is the Haitian Galliwasp, a small lizard listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered.
Imperial College London
For many years, Imperial College London has been fully engaged in the preservation and revitalization of endangered species populations around the world. In 1990, research began on saiga antelopes, a species that once inhabited many parts of the world but had been reduced to only Russia by that point. With the help of Imperial College London, the saiga population rebounded by almost 190%. In recent years, Imperial College London has been one of the driving forces behind cutting-edge research in assessing the vulnerability of species due to climate change. Some of the other prestigious studies into endangered species that Imperial College London are involved with include an in-depth analysis of gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park, a multi-school study that involves the largest examination of a biodiversity sample of protected areas in history, and a new partnership with the environmental ecology consultancy, Thomson Ecology, which will expand the use of eDNA to assess different areas to determine if they are home to various protected species, including otters, reptiles, crayfish, and water voles.
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
For many years, traditional Chinese medicine relied on ingredients from some of the most at-risk animals in the world, ingredients such as rhino horns, tiger and leopard bones, and bear gall. While the purchase and use of these ingredients was banned by the Chinese government in 1993, many Chinese medicines continue to use them. The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, however, is one institution that is leading the way in creating a responsible and ethical practice of traditional Chinese medicine. The institution has partnered with several organizations to help protect endangered species, including WWF, AAF, Save the Tiger Fund, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The college has also embraced alternative ingredients for use in its medicines and, since 2000, has worked with pharmaceutical companies specializing in Chinese medicine to do the same.
At Boston University, a team led by Dr. Thomas Kunz at the Center for Ecology & Conservation Biology began researching a lethal bat disease known as white nose syndrome that had been decimating bat populations along the east coast of the United States and moving west beginning in 2006-2007. The incredible death toll pushed certain species of bat, like the Indiana bat, toward extinction. While Dr. Kunz has since retired, research at the Kunz Bat Lab at Boston University continues, with efforts being made to fight back against this disease prior to these animals going extinct. Dr. Kunz made an impact in other areas of the Center for Ecology & Conservation at Boston University as well, including establishing the Tropical Ecology Program. In this program, students visit and study the complex ecosystems of Ecuador, researching animals that are going extinct and discovering ways of preserving these at-risk populations.
Lasell College, a small private school in Massachusetts, has engaged with local animal conservation efforts for quite some time. For years, students from the Environmental Studies Program have participated in the Head Start Turtles Program run by MassWildlife, helping to safely raise and release endangered Northern Red-bellied Cooter turtles into the wild. One of the most intensive programs at Lasell College is the Shoulder-to-Shoulder service-learning program, in which students in the ecotourism program travel to far off locations to immerse themselves in the culture. Recently, students have visited Ecuador and Belize, learning to work with various endangered mammals and other animals that are going extinct. Part of the experience is to research and gauge how tourism impacts these locales and how people can counteract those dangers. In Belize, for example, students work with the Protect Our Manatees Organization and officials on a jaguar preserve learning what steps are necessary to stop travel and tourism from hurting the local wildlife.
St. Albert’s College
In 2007, along with researchers from the University of Kerala, Trivandrum, St. Albert’s College created the Conservation Research Group (CRG) to study the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in India, particularly in the Western Ghats hotspot. Aided by funding from Endangered Species International, the CRG has worked to save local endangered freshwater fish like the Denison’s Barb, a beautiful fish pushed to the edge of extinction by the aquarium industry. The CRG also recently discovered a new species of fish that has been called the Dario urops, reinforcing the fact that the Western Ghats area is a biodiversity hotspot that has many natural mysteries yet to be discovered.
In 1981, James F. Matthews, Professor Emeritus of Biology at UNC Charlotte (UNCC), convinced the city of Charlotte to buy the Reedy Creek land rather than let it go to developers. The 730-acres of land was then turned into the James F. Matthews Center for Biodiversity Studies (CBS). Today, this nature reserve helps safeguard local plants and wildlife, including many species that have been nearing extinction. The CBS is now a valuable resource for UNCC students. In 2010, when the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute needed a way to safeguard the eggs of some endangered big cats, they turned to the Lee College of Engineering at UNC Charlotte. At the research lab of Associate Professor Gloria Elliott, researchers were working on creative ways to dry and store the eggs so that they could be fertilized in vitro to revive the fading populations of certain lions and tigers. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute chose UNCC because of its patented microwave drying method. The research that has come from this partnership has supported the feasibility of anhydrous preservation and looks to make advances in post-dehydration research next.
University of Andalusía
The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) group has been instrumental in protecting thousands of endangered species since its creation in 1975. The organization saw so much interest in its programs that it created its own Virtual College, hosted by the Universidad Internacional de Andalucía (UNIA). Now in its 12th session, the Master's Course in Management and Conservation of Species in Trade: The International Framework is designed for professionals looking to advance their careers or get involved in policy-making regarding international environmental agreements. The program is intended to be a training ground for universities and other academic institutions in the field of conservation. It features open master’s degree-level courses from UNIA, educational materials, videos, and databases for anyone interested in learning about wildlife preservation. CITES officials call the Virtual College "a first for a multilateral environmental agreement."