History and Milestones
For more than 20 years we have fostered a synergistic partnership between schools, informal science institutions, in-situ conservation organizations, in-country non-governmental organizations, and the public in the form of families and individuals, all working towards the preservation of the wildest creatures and places on earth.
In 1987, CEO and co-founder, Norman Gershenz and co-founder Leslie Saul traveled to Costa Rica on a joint expedition with Smithsonian Institution staff Kay Taub to La Selva, CATIE in Turialba, and finally Santa Rosa National Park where they had a chance meeting with Dr. Daniel Janzen and talked about the state of wildlife in nature.
In 1988, due to a strong commitment to help solve the crisis of vanishing wildlife and to deepen the involvement of zoos, aquaria, botanical gardens and museums and their visiting public, Norman Gershenz and Leslie Saul co-founded the Ecosystem Survival Plan program. The Ecosystem Survival Plan created, for the first time, a concrete bridge between the wonder of the natural world, the reality of wildlife endangerment, and the ability to take immediate action to participate in protecting nature. To accomplish this goal Mr. Gershenz and Leslie Saul created the Conservation Parking Meters and the first Adopt An Acre® program in the United States. Originally, at its inception, the national headquarters was coordinated and staffed on a volunteer basis. Today SaveNature.Org has a full time Executive Director, Director of Conservation and Science, Senior Conservation Associate, Assistant Conservation Associate, six Education Specialists and one Lab technician. Leslie Saul and Norman Gershenz won the Grafis International Design Award in 1992 for the Conservation Parking Meter design.
In 1993, Norman Gershenz co-founded with Leslie Saul, the Center for Ecosystem Survival, a non-profit conservation organization to empower the public and to unify the efforts of zoos, aquaria, botanical gardens and museums for the preservation of wildlife and wild places. CES received a lead grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to develop a strategic management plan, implement organizational expansion and program growth, and strengthen its Scientific Advisory Board and Board of Directors. Collaboration with our many amazing consortium partners such as the North Carolina Zoo, Knoxville Zoo and the Mill Mountain Zoo increased from 6 to 70 nationwide, and later grew to include the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Cincinnati Zoo, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Organizations of all sizes, small, medium and large, joined together to make a difference in the world. By joining together and pooling the funds they raised to save wildlife in wild places and whole ecosystems they changed several paradigms that had been in place at the time: they were able to make a more significant difference to each project chosen to receive funds; by pooling their resources they reduced the duplication of effort at each institution; they participated in a shift from only participating in single species conservation programs to participating in ecosystem conservation and a shift from ex-situ only conservation to participation in-situ (in nature) conservation as well.
The program developed a vast network of volunteer coordinators throughout the United States and Canada. A dedicated core group of volunteers and students proved invaluable, orchestrating special events, public outreach, development and production of educational materials, and program fulfillment.
In 1995 the Center relocated its national headquarters to San Francisco State University. The College of Science and Engineering and the Department of Biology at SFSU offered to be the host institution, supplying in-kind office space and laboratory space.
In 1998, CES began the Insect Discovery Lab (IDL), a dynamic traveling educational outreach effort designed to inspire school-aged children about how to participate in the preservation of wildlife through ecosystem protection. The Insect Discovery Lab is one of the most successful educational programs nationwide, teaching and impacting more than 181,685 children since its inception with the Insect Discovery Lab’s BugMobile. The program has grown in the last few years from 300 presentations given in 2004 to 700 presentations presented in 2008, traveling 17,000 miles each year. The goal of the Insect Discovery Lab is to nurture environmental literacy, creating a population of young people whose approach to their environment reflects responsibility, leadership, commitment, stewardship and joy for the natural world. The Insect Discovery Lab, today, is the largest outreach program in Northern California teaching about nature and conservation. As of 2009, the Insect Discovery Lab teaches more than 800 hands-on programs annually reaching 29,000 children individually in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area alone. Our website and television and event appearances impact a far greater audience. In 2001 CES expanded to off-site offices in Potrero Hill, San Francisco to accommodate its growing outreach program and growing staff to fulfill new programming.
SaveNature.Org has been recognized by the following foundations for its outstanding educational conservation outreach and received grants from
• David and Lucile Packard Foundation
• The World Wildlife Fund’s Conservation Award
• The National Environmental Awards Council Certificate of
• Congressional Recognition from the United States Congress
• Outstanding Contribution to Conservation from The Nature
The program has been highlighted in
• National Geographic Magazine
• The Los Angeles Times
• Scholastic News
• National Geo-Kid
• ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings
• Bay Area Backroads
• Evening Magazine
• View From the Bay
and numerous news television programs.
To date, through the efforts of our 150 partner institutions, including zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, museums and businesses, and 2,700 schools nationwide, SaveNature.Org has reached more than 80 million children and adults, has raised awareness and more than $3.9 million for ecosystem protection to save wildlife and wild places.
We thank all our partners for doing all the good work. They have taken the leadership role for saving nature for future generations so that wonder and discovery will always be there to explore.