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UW Preserves Biodiversity Institute In Transition To Larger Research Initiative

Biodiversity Institute

The future of the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Wyoming has been uncertain for the last six months. Thursday the UW Board of Trustees approved plans to keep it open.

The institute, known for its unique blend of academic research and citizen science, was slated to close because its funding had run out. That announcement came last July from UW administrators.

Faculty, students and community members organized and asked the university to reconsider.

Donal O'Toole, chair of the UW faculty senate, said the decision will address uncertainty felt on campus.

"So a common question faculty and staff has is: Does the administration listen and can it change course?," said O'Toole. "And the answer is yes."

Under the approved plan the Biodiversity Institute is funded through 2019 and will become the outreach arm of a larger research initiative that is under development.

Professor Brent Ewers is the institute's new director, taking over for Gary Beauvais who served as interim director. Ewers will lead a Biodiversity Task Force charged with creating a campus-wide plan for biodiversity research and outreach. He will also lead fundraising efforts.

Donal O'Toole raised concerns about whether the UW Foundation — the university's fundraising arm — had stymied efforts to find the institute funding in the past.

Ewers told O'Toole and the UW trustees that he was optimistic about collaborations with the UW Foundation moving forward.

"From what I can tell and from all the investigation I've done," said Ewers, "I see no constraints on my ability to fundraise and work with the foundation. That is my understanding."

According to the plan the Biodiversity Institute will also be included in a 2020 budget request that will go before the trustees in May.

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.
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