For the Birds – Crowdfunding Rescues Cornell University’s Endangered Biodiversity Field Studies

Roaming through the stunted shrub oaks and knee-high palmettos in one of America’s most endangered habitats can get rather expensive for budding scientists who are more likely to engage a gopher tortoise or scrub-jay than a classroom smartboard.

Field study through the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology can cost Cornell University graduates students $2,000 beyond course tuition. But, the hundreds of burgeoning biologists who have made the two-week pilgrimage to the Archbold Biological Field Station in south central Florida say the hands-on experience can provide the spark that ignites a professional career.

the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology sought the assistance of a crowdfunding campaign. Not only was $15,000 raised to cover housing, transportation, field equipment and lab fees for about 12 graduate students, Cornell officials were able to establish an endowment for the Root-Marks Fund for Field Teaching.

Thanks to the crowdfunding effort, students can learn to think like scientists again in the solitude of the Archbold ranch, where the field study program has been held for 25 sessions spanning 50 years. In that time, high costs, management issues and institutional regulations have drastically cut the number of field courses at colleges and universities in the United States in half.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free crowdfunding platform, said to support out-of-the-box experiential biodiversity learning where the world is the classroom, colleges, universities, faculty and students need to connect to a community of individuals who are passionate about these same topics for funding.

What exactly is biodiversity?  Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play. For example, A larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms.” (, Why is Biodiversity Important Who Cares, January 2014)

Peter Marks, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell, said field studies provide graduate students hands-on experience in defining questions and designing field investigations. The exposure equipped Morgan Mouchka, Ph.D. ’14, with the skills and tools she needed to become a top-notch investigator and advocate for global conservation and biodiversity. The alumnus and crowdfunding ambassador for the program said the bonds and friendships she developed during her field study have lasted beyond graduate school.

Located in an out-of-the-way section of the northern Everglades, the Archbold Biological Stations attracts scientists from all over the world to study plants and animals found nowhere else on earth. The 9,000-acre nonprofit is dedicated to studying, interpreting, preserving and restoring Florida’s scrub ecosystem, an endangered remnant of the beaches and sand dunes that have stood exposed above sea level for more than 1 million years., is a free fundraising website that offers the best in crowdfunding capabilities to forward-thinking schools, students, nonprofits, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals who want to connect their fundraising campaign to the public. When you create a biodiversity campaign on YouHelp, people will be able to support the protection and conservation of our ecosystems; and contribute to ecological health projects in plant, marine and wildlife biodiversity.

The YouHelp process is simple: create a profile, a fundraising goal, add some high resolution images, a compelling message that prospects will find worthwhile — and launch. If the idea is deserving, and and the campaign is promoted properly, people will pledge their support.


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