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Science Action

Putting the Museum to Work for Conservation

What began as a small experiment during the Museum’s centennial celebration in 1995, has blossomed into a team of scientist-explorers expert in translating museum knowledge into lasting results for conservation and cultural understanding, both in the midst of a great urban center and in the wildest, most remote places on Earth.

The experiment—to bring the Museum’s tradition of rigorous science to bear on practical challenges—worked beyond all expectations. In twelve years of work in South America, the efforts of a small core led to the protection of 23 million acres of wilderness in the Amazon headwaters. The return on investment has been enormous: to date, the team’s track record is five acres protected per $1 invested in rapid inventories.

In the Chicago region, the Museum leads pioneering collaborations to bring people and nature together, in all their diversity, in the midst of a huge metropolis. Two of these collaborations—Chicago Wilderness and the Chicago Cultural Alliance—have captured the imagination of cities across the country and beyond.