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GWC’s Conservation Superpower: Collaboration

By Thomas Lacher on September 21, 2018   duration 3 min read

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Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) changed its name to Re:wild in 2021

By Dr. Thomas E. Lacher, Jr., Associate Conservation Scientist

Professor, Texas A&M University

Global Wildlife Conservation may be celebrating its 10-year anniversary, but to me it feels like so much than 10 years’ worth of conservation collaboration!

I have been working with GWC CEO Wes Sechrest since 2005, and I worked with many of the current GWC staff, including Don Church and Robin Moore, when I was executive director of Conservation International’s Center for Applied Biodiversity Science. GWC has become a new family of former associates, all dedicated to species conservation. GWC is unique in that it has truly remained loyal to a central tenet of conservation: the importance of conserving species as the building blocks of biodiversity and ultimately the health of the planet.

The Power of Partnerships

A big part of GWC’s success is that it is continually partnering with new scientists across the globe, which brings a critical diversity of perspectives. That’s very important to me. When I left Conservation International to return to academia at Texas A&M University, I wanted to find a partner that would allow me to combine my two passions: training new conservation scientists in our graduate program in Applied Biodiversity Science and achieving on-the-ground conservation success. Being part of GWC’s associates program has formalized our existing relationship, and opened more opportunities for collaboration between Texas A&M and GWC. GWC has been the ideal collaborator, and because both of our organizations are Texas-based, it’s easy to coordinate.

Dr. Iara Lacher, Smithsonian; Dr. Tom Lacher, Texas A&M; and Nikki Roach, Texas A&M and GWC associate conservation scientist setting camera traps for the Santa Marta Toro. (Photo by Dr. Jan Schipper) Dr. Iara Lacher, Smithsonian; Dr. Tom Lacher, Texas A&M; and Nikki Roach, Texas A&M and GWC associate conservation scientist setting camera traps for the Santa Marta Toro. (Photo by Dr. Jan Schipper)

Thanks to GWC’s financial and logistical support—and emphasis on collaboration—we partner on a number of key projects.

One important collaboration involves projects in Colombia with my Ph.D. student Nikki Roach, who is also an associate conservation scientist at GWC. We are searching for the endemic arboreal spiny rat the Santa Marta Toro—a species lost to science since 2011—and are assessing the impacts of habitat conversion and climate change on threatened amphibians found nowhere else in the world.

The Santa Marta Toro has been lost to science since 2011. (Photo by Lizzie Noble) The Santa Marta Toro has been lost to science since 2011. (Photo by Lizzie Noble)

We are also collaborating on a camera trapping initiative in Argentina’s Condor Valley with Texas A&M undergraduate student Minna Wong. Additionally, I serve as co-chair of the IUCN Small Mammal Specialist Group, and am working closely with GWC’s senior director of species conservation, Barney Long, on reassessing the conservation status of small mammals. Our team includes Texas A&M’s Nikki Roach and Shelby McCay, collaborating with Ros Kennerley and Rich Young at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. GWC President Don Church, serves on Nikki’s Ph.D. committee, and Wes Sechrest is an adjunct professor in our department.

Successful conservation depends on these kinds of extensive partnerships that pool expertise and resources.

GWC’s Next Decade

Throughout my work with GWC, I’ve been impressed by the ease of collaboration, the openness of the staff, the accessibility to GWC leadership, and the flexibility and innovation that the organization embodies. Doing conservation is hard work, and GWC uniquely works to facilitate the process so that our energies are allocated to conservation action.

Tom and Nikki hike the trails in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta while on amphibian surveys. (Photo by Dr. Jan Schipper) Tom and Nikki hike the trails in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta while on amphibian surveys. (Photo by Dr. Jan Schipper)

If I could give GWC one charge for the next 10 years, it would be to continue developing these strong collaborations with strategic partners in the field and increasing the GWC network. We need the kind of strong linkages and partnerships that GWC is creating to achieve our conservation goals. In addition we need to strive to enhance opportunities in the field of conservation for women and people of color, since diversity of participation strengthens our efforts to protect biodiversity.

Here’s to the next decade of working together toward a world full of diverse and abundant wildlife!

Read more about the search for the Santa Marta Toro in this Discovery News story

Top photo: Tom with GWC Chief Scientist and CEO Wes Sechrest at Bracken Cave in Texas.

About the author

Thomas Lacher

Dr. Thomas E. Lacher, Jr., is full professor in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University. He has been working in the Neotropics for 40 years, with field research experience in Dominica, Costa Rica, Panama, Guyana, Suriname, Peru and Brazil. His current research is focused on the assessment of extinction risk in mammals and the analysis and monitoring of large-scale patterns and trends in mammalian biodiversity.

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