Skip to main content

Today's science, tomorrow's solution: embracing a new name and a strategic plan

Change is underway at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. For over two decades, the Cary Institute has been at the forefront of ecological research. Now, in an effort to maximize the organization’s influence on environmental policy, it’s embracing solution-driven science and enhanced outreach.

A name change, adopted in January, is part of the organization’s new face. The addition of “Cary” pays recognition and honor to Mary Flagler Cary; her charitable trust has provided the financial backbone of the organization.

A new five-year plan is at the heart of the refocusing. Drafted by Cary Institute President Dr. William H. Schlesinger, in collaboration with the organization’s scientific and administrative staff, the plan was voted into effect by the Board of Trustees this winter. A number of the plan’s proposed changes had been considered for several years; it began shaping the organization immediately.

The plan’s central message: the Cary Institute’s strength is in its science. Dr. Schlesinger comments, “The Institute excels at tackling ecological questions that cut across disciplines. This type of big- picture thinking is essential to understanding today’s most pressing environmental issues, such as forest response to climate change and the procurement of renewable energy.”

Over the next five years, the Cary Institute will work to refine its research program in wetland ecosystems, while building capacity in the emerging areas of sustainable energy, forest response to climate change, and the interface between ecology and human health. New scientists are being recruited to maximize the organization’s expertise. A hiring search is underway for a climate change scientist, and Dr. Shannon LaDeau, a disease ecologist, will join the staff in the fall.

An enhanced communication platform will ensure that Cary Institute research is broadly disseminated. In addition to maintaining a bi-weekly science column in the Poughkeepsie Journal, new outreach endeavors will include briefing policy makers, hosting workshops, and creating an online resource for educating the public about the importance of ecosystems. We will also continue to provide programs for K-12 students and undergraduates through the Ecosystem Literacy Initiative.

Cary Institute Board Vice Chairman Mr. Steven Benardete comments, “The Cary Institute is a local organization with national reach. For several decades its scientists have been influential in the field of ecology; now the organization is in a position to inform decision makers. By providing leadership in areas such as sustainable energy, the new strategic plan will help bridge the divide between sound science and resource management.”

Citizens can also act as environmental stewards. With this in mind, the Cary Institute is committed to hosting monthly public ecology programs. These free weekend offerings will teach guests about the importance of ecosystems, including what they are and why they matter. Learn about upcoming opportunities in the calendar on page 7.

In an effort to increase public accessibility and education, over the next year the Institute’s trail system will be updated. Plans include the creation of interpretive signs and trail guides that highlight ecological themes and staff research projects.  Strengthening the organization’s focal areas—freshwater health, climate change, renewable energy, and disease ecology—will require streamlining resources. The most visible on-site change will be the closure of the Gifford Perennial Garden and the greenhouse. These horticulture programs were initiated when the site was managed by the New York Botanical Garden.

When the grounds open on April 1st, new dawn-to-dusk visitor hours will make it easier to plan an excursion. Guests are encouraged to explore the Cary Institute’s trails, internal roadways, and Fern Glen.