Our work doesn’t stop with discovering life on Earth—we’re also helping to sustain it.
Sustainability Success Stories
The Academy’s commitment to influencing sustainability outcomes far beyond its walls can be traced back to its earliest days, when the institution's scientists and founders quickly established themselves as leaders in environmental conservation. They helped to draft and support legislation to protect Yosemite Valley and Mount Shasta. The Sierra Club was founded in Academy halls. And Academy leaders helped to create California’s first state park, expand California’s game laws, and establish Galapagos National Park.
Such measures were important when the Academy was founded over 160 years ago, but today, they're critical. The Academy's Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability is at the forefront of efforts to understand the world's most precious and threatened ecosystems, including coral reefs, tropical rainforests, and California's iconic habitats. By partnering with corporations, communities, and government organizations, the Academy can ensure that its research will continue to inform conservation policies and decisions that impact our natural world.
Help for Endangered Corals
The plight of coral reefs around the world is well known, and with rising temperatures and ocean acidification, their future is more at risk than ever. Through our Hope for Reefs initiative, Academy biologists are working to save coral reefs in partnership with SECORE, an international nonprofit organization that has pioneered new techniques in sexual coral reproduction.
Helping Expand Marine Protected Areas
The Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries are teeming with life, including—as the Academy’s Gary Williams discovered—a coral species previously unknown to science. With support from such discoveries, NOAA expanded the boundaries of the sanctuaries, more than doubling the area protected from activities that might adversely affect ocean communities there.
In 2011, the Academy helped introduce a bill banning the purchase, sale, trade, and possession of shark fins in California. When the ban was challenged, the Academy’s John McCosker provided an invaluable brief for the court outlining the devastating effects that finning has had on shark populations, and made the case for why sharks are vitally important to marine ecosystems.
Protecting California Icons
In 1921, the Academy’s Committee on the Conservation of Wild Animal Life helped secure protection for the endangered pronghorn antelope, mountain sheep, and Roosevelt elk. It also produced a California distribution map and invited rangers, wardens, and members of the public to contact the committee when any of these animals were observed—a precursor to the Academy's current citizen science initiative, iNaturalist.