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Mission & History


Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies generates rigorous scientific knowledge about ecological systems and their importance to human well-being.

  • We work at the frontiers of ecological science.
  • We create excellence in science through innovation, collaboration, synthesis and dissemination of our results.
  • We shape the practice and application of ecological knowledge and discovery.
  • We engage diverse communities in our work: scientists, students, educators, policy makers, practitioners and the public.
  • We use our scientific leadership to convene, educate and inform these diverse communities to ensure the application of ecological knowledge for the public good.
  • We promote and maintain a vibrant and diverse workforce and foster a culture of integrity and respect.


In an uncertain and unpredictable world, Cary Institute is a trusted authority on ecosystem science:  we answer fundamental questions about the complex systems that support life on Earth. We engage citizens, practitioners and policymakers who seek scientifically driven solutions to environmental problems. We leverage our research and syntheses, global networks, public outreach, and partnerships for the global good.

Historical Milestones


Mary Flagler Cary leaves her 2,000 acre Millbrook estate to a charitable organization “engaged in the conservation, maintenance, and preservation of natural resources”


Mary Flagler Charitable Trust accepts proposal from the New York Botanical Garden to establish an arboretum devoted to research and educational activities.


Mary Flagler Cary Arboretum opens to
the public.


Plant Science Building is completed.


Decision is made to focus the Arboretum on the science of ecology.


Institute of Ecosystem Studies (IES) is established as a ground-breaking research organization and major think tank for the emerging field of ecosystem studies.


Weather station is equipped to collect measurements of precipitation chemistry (acid rain), temperature, and other variables.


Inaugural Cary Conference gathers leaders across disciplines to explore new dimensions in ecosystem science.


Hudson River Group begins their landmark long-term studies investigating the health and functioning of the Hudson River Estuary.


Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program is initiated to train the next generation of ecologists.


Hudson River Group predicts non-native zebra mussels will invade the Hudson River.


Cary research prompts public policy debate and sweeping revisions to the U.S. Clean Air Act.

The Institute becomes an independant, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.


Ecology Day Camp program begins teaching school children about the natural world.


Pioneering research of urban areas leads to the establishment of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study.


150-seat auditorium is built to host conferences, seminars, and public lectures.


Institute-led studies reveal a link between acorn production and Lyme disease outbreaks.


The Gene E. Likens Lab is completed.

Institute-led research finds high species diversity strongly reduces disease risk in humans–the “dilution effect”.


Gene E. Likens is awarded the National Medal of Science for his influential work on acid rain.


William H. Schlesinger becomes 2nd president.

Friday Nights at Cary program is established.


Under Institute leadership, the Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System (HRECOS) is created.

Institute name is changed to Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.


Artificial Stream Research Facility is constructed to advance studies of pharmaceutical pollution and genetically modified crops.


Joshua R. Ginsberg becomes 3rd president.


Launch of The Tick Project, a 5-year study testing environmental interventions with the potential to reduce tick-borne disease in neighborhoods.