Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Partners with George Mason University and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Foster Conservation Leadership

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and George Mason University formalized a partnership with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding Oct. 26 aimed at coordinating and fostering the professional training, career development and youth education for a new generation of natural resource conservation professionals. The partnership will use the shared capacities and expertise of the three organizations to provide hands-on training and rigorous instruction to better prepare students for the challenges of ensuring biodiversity in the 21st century.

We are thrilled to have the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joining forces with the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, said Steve Monfort, director of SCBI. The new Memorandum of Understanding will enable us to work synergistically to strengthen and enhance our education and training programs for current and future practitioners in the fields of biodiversity conservation, resource management and sustainability.

The MOU identifies a variety of mutually beneficial training, human resources and communications endeavors. Potential areas of collaboration include:

  • Providing technical assistance on a variety of topics, from business operations to training and education development
  • Developing hands-on, experiential training that prepares undergraduate, graduate and professional students for work in the field of global biodiversity conservation
  • Coordinating and executing internships and/or student employment opportunities, consistent with federal hiring regulations, practices and policy
  • Providing expertise in undergraduate and graduate academic instruction in conservation theory, field methods and the human dimensions of conservation

The global resource challenges we face demand a new approach—one that uses the most advanced science to deliver effective, landscape-scale conservation, said Dan Ashe, director of Fish and Wildlife. This partnership-driven approach requires conservation professionals who not only have a thorough grounding in science, but who are also adept at strategic thinking, consensus building and project management. This partnership offers us an unparalleled opportunity to provide training and education that will strengthen and develop these skills.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is the nation's principal federal wildlife conservation agency, entrusted with protecting, restoring and enhancing America's wild places and wild creatures. Just as diverse habitats make for healthy landscapes, a diverse and professional workforce can be more resilient, adaptable and effective. Fish and Wildlife is looking at new strategies and approaches to develop, recruit and retain a creative and innovative workforce to protect fish, wildlife and their habitats for future generations of Americans.

Mason is an innovative, entrepreneurial academic institution with national distinction in a range of academic fields. It has long-standing graduate and undergraduate programs in conservation biology, conservation studies and environmental science and policy and has tailored graduate programs to professionals and returning students. SCBI and Mason have formed the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation, located on SCBI's property in Front Royal, Va. This residential, hands-on, interdisciplinary collaboration supports education opportunities in conservation science to shape a global network of conservation leaders.

The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute plays a key role in the Smithsonian's global efforts to understand and conserve species and train future generations of conservationists. Headquartered in Front Royal, Va., SCBI facilitates and promotes research programs based at Front Royal, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and at field research stations and training sites worldwide.