The work of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will be enhanced by a new campus opened today in Cambridge, UK. The new hub, located in a building named after the leading naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, is designed to act as a catalyst for solutions to the most serious problems facing the natural world.
The campus houses the Cambridge Conservation Initiative¹, the largest cluster of biodiversity conservation organisations and university researchers in the world.
IUCN is one of nine partners² working with the University of Cambridge in the Initiative. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ – the key indicator of the state of the world’s biodiversity and a global reference point for conservationists and policy makers – is based on the campus alongside IUCN’s Freshwater Biodiversity Unit.
IUCN Director General, Inger Andersen, who is attending today’s opening ceremony, says: “With the world facing a major mass extinction crisis, IUCN’s ongoing work in assessing the global state of species is urgently needed. This new hub will improve our ability to help conservation policy-making by giving a boost to meeting our target of doubling the number of species we have assessed to 160,000 by 2020.”
The campus provides leading academics and practitioners from IUCN and its partners with a single building in which to pool their expertise, networks and learning for the benefit of biodiversity around the world. More than 500 conservation professionals are based on the campus, which has undergone a major refurbishment over the past two years.
Among those attending today’s opening is Sir David Attenborough himself. Sir David has links with many of the organisations now based on the campus, while his connection to Cambridge goes back to the 1940s when he studied zoology at the University. Sir David (literally) kick-started the campus opening festivities by abseiling down the 13-metre-high living wall at the heart of the campus’s atrium.
“Our natural world is threatened as never before. The threats are both numerous and interrelated, and no one institution, however effective, can hope to address them all alone," says David Attenborough. "By bringing together leaders in research, practice, policy and teaching, we stand the greatest chance of developing the solutions required to save our planet.”
The complexity and severity of the problems facing our planet, such as climate change, habitat destruction and overexploitation of nature, require innovative solutions that draw on the expertise of people from different disciplines and with complementary skills and knowledge. As the location of one of the world's foremost research universities and a great concentration of conservation organisations, Cambridge is where the ingredients required to address these problems and the expertise to develop solutions can be found together.
The Cambridge Conservation Initiative has been working since 2007 to foster strategic collaborations between its partners. According to its Executive Director, Dr Mike Rands, the new campus represents a step-change for both the Initiative and conservation more broadly.
“The new campus provides a unique, collaborative space for integrating biodiversity conservation research and practice and developing conservation leaders”, says Dr Rands. “The excitement and energy within the building have been palpable since the moment the first occupants moved in; it offers an exceptional platform from which to transform the landscape of global biodiversity conservation.”
¹ CCI is a collaboration between nine leading biodiversity conservation organisations based in and around the city of Cambridge and the University of Cambridge. By catalysing strategic partnerships between leaders in research, education, policy and practice CCI aims to transform the global understanding and conservation of biodiversity and, through this, secure a sustainable future for biodiversity and society.
² The CCI partners are: BirdLife International, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Cambridge Conservation Forum (CCF), IUCN, Fauna & Flora International (FFI), RSPB, TRAFFIC, Tropical Biology Association (TBA), UNEP-WCMC, and the University of Cambridge.