Protecting Nature and InformationBy Aaron Lazenby
The Nature Conservancy protects endangered species and drinking water.Beginning in the Catskill Mountains, the Neversink River winds its way for 60 miles to the confluence of the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania borders. Aside from featuring some of the best fly-fishing in the country, this Delaware River tributary is home to the world's healthiest population of the globally imperiled dwarf wedge mussel, and the mussels' endangered status has prompted a large-scale conservation effort called the Neversink River Project. The project—operated by the Nature Conservancy—keeps the mussels bubbling, the ecosystem healthy, and New York City's purest source of drinking water potable.
Since its founding in 1951, the Nature Conservancy has grown to be a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters. The organization and its one million members together have saved more than 117 million acres and 5,000 river miles around the world. By 2015, the Nature Conservancy hopes to achieve an ambitious goal to preserve places that represent at least 10 percent of every major habitat type on Earth.
But massive projects such as the Neversink River Project require innovative tools to keep information current, organized, and available to the conservation community. It's for this reason that the Nature Conservancy developed ConserveOnline, a free, internet-based resource tool designed to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of global conservation by allowing conservationists to post data, form work groups, and search the databases of organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, the Rainforest Alliance, and the Nature Conservancy itself.
"We deal with a lot of information and a lot of complexity," says the Nature Conservancy's George Schuler, conservation scientist and director of the project. "Complexity in terms of having researchers out in the river, and dealing with people from all over our region and all over the world."
To help in these efforts, in 2006 Oracle awarded the Nature Conservancy a US$1 million Commitment Grant over the next two years. Specifically, the grant enables the Nature Conservancy to develop a new, expanded version of ConserveOnline. Oracle is also making a US$200,000 in-kind software donation that will enable the Nature Conservancy to expand its geographic information system, which allows conservationists to visualize, query, and layer spatial information on a single screen. These tools allow the Nature Conservancy to better manage the growing amount of scientific data.
"As a decentralized, science-based organization that is rapidly expanding, the Nature Conservancy is increasingly dependent on quality and speed of knowledge sharing, both within the Conservancy and with our partners," says Steve McCormick, president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy. "Thanks to Oracle's grant, organizations will have ready access to compelling information to help direct—and inspire—conservation action on a regional, national, and global scale."
Oracle's partnership with the Nature Conservancy is an important part of Oracle's Commitment, the company's efforts to advance education, promote diversity, enrich the life of communities, and protect the environment. Oracle has been a longtime supporter of the Nature Conservancy; over the past 17 years, Oracle has made corporate contributions and in-kind donations totaling more than US$3.4 million.
"We're proud of the nearly two-decade relationship we've fostered with the Nature Conservancy," says Rosalie Gann, Oracle's director of Global Corporate Citizenship. "We're excited to help the organization improve its technology—and improve conservation communication throughout the world."
Aaron Lazenby is a senior editor with Oracle Publishing.