All living things depend on clean and sustainable sources of water.
To advance the wellness of our watersheds improving all quality of life, the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation (MCHF), in collaboration with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), and the University of Missouri (MU), is excited to announce the creation of the Johnny Morris Institute of Fisheries, Wetlands, and Aquatic Systems within the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) at MU.
This Institute will train the next generation of aquatic systems conservationists, environmental scientists, and researchers, and serve as a national center of research, knowledge, and best management practices impacting fisheries, wildlife, and aquatic systems. The institute is designed to drill down on issues affecting freshwater ecosystems, from agriculture to aquifers to streams, lakes, and wetlands, and guide the development of incentive- and technology-based policies and solutions with minimal regulatory impact. The institute will be national in scope and will include several partners across the country.
Additionally, the Institute will:
- Bring together diverse partners to collectively define priority challenges.
- Conduct critical, cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research needed to anticipate, inform, or resolve priority issues and maintain healthy fisheries, wetlands, and aquatic systems in Missouri, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
- Ensure conservation workforce development through internships, cooperative education efforts, and graduate assistance programs that guarantee the next generation of researchers, conservationists, managers, and industry leaders are trained in a setting that provides real-world learning opportunities and cross-disciplinary training.
- Develop and support public policy focusing on integrated conservation and economics of water, fish and wildlife resources, agriculture, and associated outdoor recreation.
- Communicate knowledge gained through an array of platforms, including conferences, and scientific and popular publications to convey information affection the lives and decisions of every citizen.
- Build a pipeline of talent to help fill recurring vacancies at MDC as well as conservation agencies/organizations across the country.
Why Do We Care?
Nearly 90 percent of Missouri’s wetlands have been destroyed. Learn more in this article by MDC: Wonderful Wetlands.
Clean water and healthy freshwater ecosystems have never been more important to our health, safety, and future. Healthy wetlands and aquatic systems and sustainable fish and wildlife populations do not happen by accident. Many plants and animals depend on healthy ecosystems and could become threatened if those water habitats were destroyed.
A substantial percentage of Missouri’s wetlands have been converted to other uses, including agriculture and urbanization, leading to declines of plants and animals and associated recreation and other human benefits dependent on these systems. Restoration and management to support natural processes are essential to offset these losses.
We need inspired, educated, and trained conservation stewards to bring innovative expertise and research that will be used to work toward a sustainable planet.
For decades, MU had a storied history of advancing fisheries science and aquatic systems. But since the early 2000s, administrative decisions, retirements, and declining budgets severely impacted the MU fisheries program to the point where adjunct professors teach classes. This lack of investment into a formalized program could be detrimental to Missouri conservation and MDC long-term conservation.
MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley and the Missouri Conservation Commission recognized the impending crisis and began working with the MCHF and MU on a solution, The Institute of Fisheries, Wetlands and Aquatic Systems.
In 2021, MCHF conducted a feasibility survey to determine interest in supporting the establishment of the Institute. Based on the positive feedback from survey participants, we have launched Phase 1, a $10 million campaign to hire a director and faculty, and for operational support, by July 2023 to achieve the goals and objectives of the Institute. Interest and participation are strong.
The survey results and feedback helped us identify the four major components of developing the Institute:
- Faculty and Staff
- Career Pathways and Workforce Development
- Public Policy
To date, we have raised more than $12 million toward the goal of funding a $30 million endowment, held by MCHF.
MCHF and its donors and partners are committed to building the endowment over the next 10 years for the continued operation of the Institute. The endowment will help hire the Institute director and professors, in addition to establishing scholarships, internships, cooperative programs, and fellowships.
In addition to a lead matching gift of $1 million from the Missouri Conservation Commission, $3 million from MU, $365,000 from the U.S. Geological Survey in faculty funding, and gifts from other generous donors, and all members of the MCHF Board of Directors have displayed their support and contributed funds to this initiative.
Join us to continue the momentum. Your support will help us ensure that future generations have access to world-class fishing, hunting, nature-based recreation, functioning wetlands, clean water, productive agriculture systems, and natural resource-based economies that are better than we enjoy today. We ask that you consider donating $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, or more. The future of fisheries, wetlands, and aquatics systems in Missouri, regionally, nationally, and internationally is counting on it.
To learn more about the Johnny Morris Institute of Fisheries, Wetlands, and Aquatic Systems contact MCHF Executive Director Tricia Burkhardt at email@example.com or 319.610.5215.