Daily will use the $100,000 award to launch a study on innovative approaches to conservation finance in collaboration with other researchers from Stanford and the Nature Conservancy. She and Philip Levin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are the first scholars to be selected for the program.
"To thwart rampant environmental degradation, the Nature Conservancy needs the breakthrough thinking and innovation that can be found among the best university scholars and the most experienced conservation leaders," said Peter Kareiva, the Conservancy's lead scientist. "Gretchen Daily has done more than any other scientist to make clear it is not conservation versus people, but conservation and people."
As a Smith Scholar, Daily will be evaluating an array of promising new financial incentives designed to encourage judicious custodianship of natural resources before they come under threat. These incentives include creating markets for ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, water purification and biodiversity conservation. Daily and her colleagues will assess the potential of various market-based approaches to conservation and assist The Nature Conservancy in their implementation.
"More and more money goes into environmental conservation - billions of dollars per year - and yet most environmental trends are heading in the wrong direction, many at accelerating rates," Daily said. "We have to make it more profitable to protect the environment than to destroy it, and to do that we need to make conservation a central activity rather than the marginal activity it is today."