When 3,500 individuals from across the country and around the globe convene for a scientific conference such as the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) recent meeting in Austin, Texas, it takes a toll on the environment. There is the carbon footprint from the various modes of travel to get to the meeting. But there is also the broader environmental cost of the habitat loss and the wildlife displacement that occurred to build a convention center and nearby hotels, the structures which make such a meeting possible.
As one way to offset this environmental cost, ESA contributes $5 for each registrant at its annual meeting to an environmental offset contribution which it donates to a local project or organization in the city in which it meets. This year, the Society gave $9,230 each to Bat Conservation International (BCI) and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, both located in Austin.
BCI supports bat conservation worldwide, offering grants and scholarships, monitoring bat populations and caves, protecting bats colonies in abandoned mines, and supporting educational outreach. Austin is a logical home for the organization since the city boasts North America’s largest urban bat colony, which lives under Congress Avenue Bridge. BCI plans to put ESA’s donation towards protecting bats from White-nose syndrome, wind power and other threats.
The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to “increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.” Among its activities are hosting ecological research, collecting and storing seeds of native plants, and hosting an online database of over 7,200 native plant species through its Native Plant Information Network. The Center plans to put the Society’s donation towards its environmental and ecological restoration projects.
Photos: Little brown bats with white-nose syndrome, Nancy Heaslip, NY Dept. of Envr. Conservation; Wildflowers in Austin from Flickr by Spyderella