Grant Funds Will be Used to Promote Biodiversity Conservation in the Region

MacArthur has announced a grant of $2 million to the University of the South Pacific (USP) for its Institute of Applied Sciences. The USP is a regional university serving 12 countries, with its main campus in Fiji.

The South Pacific is one of the worlds richest repositories of endangered marine life, home to some 400 species of coral and 900 species of fish, said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. The University of the South Pacific is one of the most important academic institutions in the region, leading efforts to conserve this abundant biodiversity. A proud partner in their work for over a decade, the MacArthur Foundation is delighted to announce this grant, which will help anchor USPs conservation efforts for the future.

The University of the South Pacific will use the grant to establish an endowment to help fund postgraduate fellowships in conservation and taxonomy for Pacific Islanders, and to host outside experts for short-term visits. Grant funds will also be used to design a new herbarium facility, purchase equipment for monitoring the health of the regions reefs, and fund efforts to explore extending Institute services.

Pacific peoples are largely dependent on their biodiversity for their subsistence needs as well as for economic development, said Dr. William Aalbersberg, Director of the Institute. The University strategy is to develop skills in taxonomy and conservation to help understand what these resources are and how they can be sustainably utilized, while at the same time working at the community level to build on traditional knowledge to develop resource management plans. This approach is showing initial success in raising community incomes and conserving biodiversity in Fiji. The MacArthur Foundation grant will allow more talented Pacific islanders to be trained and to extend the geographical area of the work.

Each year, the Foundation makes a small number of large, institution-building grants to organizations that have previously received support from the Foundation and have reached a stage of institutional development where such an investment would be particularly timely.

Support for the Institute of Applied Sciences at USP helps advance the Foundations conservation and sustainable development priorities in the South Pacific, one of its nine focal regions. With the goal of preserving the Pacifics rich marine sector, grantmaking in the region has been geared towards strengthening local management of marine resources and promoting sustainable fisheries.

The Foundations Conservation and Sustainable Development program focuses on preserving the biodiversity of living organisms and maintaining tropical ecosystems, which are home to some of the worlds most diverse natural communities and critically endangered species. The Foundation provides support to help create and manage parks and marine areas, increase the skills of local governmental and non-governmental institutions and individuals, and strengthen environmental law and policy. In addition to traditional conservation focused on protected areas, the Foundation seeks to address both economic and conservation needs by promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and helping the local population manage the biodiversity on which they depend for their livelihoods.

About the Institute of Applied Sciences at University of the South Pacific (USP):
The Institute is divided into five sections: analytical laboratory, environment, food, herbarium, and natural products. The Analytical Laboratory performs most chemical and microbiological analyses required in the region and received international accreditation in 2004. The Environment Unit performs Environmental Impact Assessments and has developed innovative participatory approaches to assist communities in resource management and has received major international awards in the last two years, the Equator Initiative Award and the Whitley People and the Environment Award.

The Food Unit combines work in food analysis, food technology and food safety. The Herbarium manages over 70,000 plant voucher specimens and is developing as a center of excellence in taxonomy and conservation. The natural products work focuses on commercial use of regional biodiversity. The twelve countries that have campuses as part of the University of the South Pacific are: Cook Islands, Fuji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Conservation & Sustainable Development, Asia, Conservation