In these times - especially in light of the EPA's recent silencing - who are in your opinion the best scientific, environmental, and research-oriented organizations to support and donate to? I'm compiling a list.
Mission: The Environmental Defense Fund is perhaps the most wide-ranging organization on this list, working to provide solutions under the broad categories of climate change, oceans, wildlife and habitats, and health. The EDF works with other organizations, businesses, government, and communities to create incentives for positive environmental actions; help companies become better environmental stewards; influence policy; and keep tabs on emerging issues Top Programs: Climate and energy, oceans, ecosystems Percent of expenses spent on programs: 79.1 Charity Navigator Score: 94.48
The Nature Conservancy
Mission: The Nature Conservancy protects ecologically important lands and waters around the world with the help of more than 500 staff scientists. Top Programs: Climate change, fire, fresh water, forests, invasive species, and marine ecosystems Percent of expenses spent on programs: 71.2 Charity Navigator Score: 84.35
Natural Resources Defense Council
Mission: The Natural Resources Defense Council seeks to protect the basics—air, land, and water—and to defend endangered natural places, with an eye toward how these long-term decisions affect humans. Top Programs: Climate, land, wildlife, water, oceans, energy, food, sustainable communities Percent of expenses spent on programs: 83.6 Charity Navigator Score: 96.35
Mission: American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers and the wildlife they support, and conserves clean water for people and nature, with an eye toward recreationists as well. Top Programs: River restoration, federal river management, clean water supply Percent of expenses spent on programs: 74.9 Charity Navigator Score: 88.18
Trust For Public Land
Mission: The Trust for Public Land creates parks & protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Works to ensure that everyone has access to nature within a 10-minute walk from home. Percent of expenses spent on programs: 84 Charity Navigator Score: Not yet rated by CN, but given an A from Charity Watch
Sierra Club Foundation
Mission: The Sierra Club Foundation is the fiscal sponsor of the Sierra Club’s charitable environmental programs, and promotes efforts to educate and empower people to protect and improve the natural and human environment. The Sierra Club is the principal, though not exclusive, recipient of SCF’s charitable grants. Top Programs: Beyond Coal, Chapter and Group Education Project, Our Wild America Percent of expenses spent on programs: 88.5 Charity Navigator Score: 94.08
Earthjustice is an environmental organization that works to protect the environment through battles in the courtroom. The organization has many legal and legislative victories under its belt and its attorneys are currently representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its lawsuit against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Donate to Earthjustice here.
The organization was founded in 1971 as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, though it was fully independent from the Sierra Club. It changed its name to Earthjustice in 1997 to better reflect its role as a legal advocate representing hundreds of regional, national and international organizations. As of January 2009, the group had provided free legal representation to more than 700 clients ranging from the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, and the American Lung Association to smaller state and community groups, such as the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and the Friends of the Everglades. Earthjustice is a nonprofit and does not charge any of its clients for its services. Funding for the organization comes from individual donations and foundations. It does not receive any funding from corporations or governments.
In addition to its nature conservation work in the United States, this Virginia-based nonprofit partners with local communities all over the world to secure land rights and advocate for environmental protections. Donate to Conservation International here.
All the organizations listed above have national and international reach, but as always check out organizations local to you. Charity watchdog websites such as Charity Watch or Charity Navigator are helpful in ensuring that the money and time you donate to nonprofits are being well-spent. Now go on out there and fight for the earth.
The organization also publishes textbooks, administers several national chemistry awards, provides grants for scientific research, and supports various educational and outreach activities.
Union of Concerned Scientists
Nonprofit science advocacy organization based in the United States. The UCS membership includes many private citizens in addition to professional scientists. Anne Kapuscinski, Sherman Fairchild distinguished professor of sustainability science in the Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth College, currently chairs the UCS Board of Directors, having replaced James J. McCarthy, Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University and past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2015.
Founded in 1863 as a result of an Act of Congress that was approved by Abraham Lincoln, the NAS is charged with “providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology. … to provide scientific advice to the government ‘whenever called upon’ by any government department. The Academy receives no compensation from the government for its services.
For more, simply Google “best science organizations to donate to” and you’ll find them ranked.
A lot of people ask me if I’m a marine biologist, or refer to me as one when they talk about my work. There’s nothing wrong about it, exactly, but I don’t really identify as one. My PhD will technically be in biological oceanography, and while the two disciplines are similar there are some key differences. The distinction between the two isn’t codified by anyone, as far as I know, and there is probably a lot of overlap. This is how I was taught they are different. Feel free to comment with your (constructive) thoughts.
Marine biologists study the biology of organisms that live in the ocean: things like anatomy, physiology, behavior, disease, etc. A marine biologist knows the ins and outs of marine organisms. Because there is a huge amount of diversity in the ocean, marine biologists usually have a specialty, such as fish, cephalopods, mollusks, seaweeds, sponges…
A biological oceanographer, on the other hand, studies the relationships between marine organisms, and the relationship between these organisms and the ocean. In other words, they are more concerned with things like food webs, predator-prey interactions, and nutrient availability than they are with the anatomy of an octopus, for example. Of course anatomy and behavior and things like that are important to ecology, but we’re less concerned with the details than we are with the overall outcome. Biological oceanography is also called ocean ecology, a term I think is WAY easier to understand, but that’s not what will be written on my degree, sadly.
More this, less dolphins.
To complicate the matter further, I specifically study the ecology of marine microbes, which makes me a marine microbial ecologist (or a microbial oceanographer). But I also work with DNA a lot, so you could call me a marine molecular ecologist. These terms mean absolutely nothing to most people. I can wax eloquent about how there are more microbes in the ocean then there are stars in the universe, but at the end of the day, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s work is going to be way more accessible than mine. The ocean, to most people, is a big blue mystery full of dolphins and Sharknado. Even when people do talk about all the amazing life in the ocean, microbes aren’t even on the radar. Vampire squid and mantis shrimp are relatable. You can’t teach a dinoflagellate to do tricks at Sea World. They are, however, watching you while you swim.
Maybe not as scary as this guy, but definitely creepy.
Anyway, this is why I experience a tiny rage every time someone asks me if I want to work in aquarium. Marine biologists work in aquariums, right?
P.S. I also cannot give you superpowers, develop a zombie plague, or cure your herpes. Please stop asking.
Credit: Richard Kirby // Plymouth University // David Attenborough
“Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the waves is written, produced and directed by Dr Richard Kirby (Marine Institute Research Fellow, Plymouth University) with a narration by Sir David Attenborough and music by Richard Grassby-Lewis.
Drawing upon Richard Kirby’s plankton imagery, Ocean Drifters reveals how the plankton have shaped life on Earth and continue to influence our lives in ways that most of us never imagine.”