The Global Center for Species Survival is built upon a partnership and a commitment to conservation. As human pressure continues to drive biodiversity loss, the work of conservationists from around the world becomes more vital in protecting and restoring nature. Only through collaboration can we protect species and the spaces they call home.
That’s why the Indianapolis Zoo partnered with the world’s largest conservation organization – the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – which connects thousands of dedicated species experts under the Species Survival Commission (SSC).
The Global Center for Species Survival supports, connects and communicates the work of more than 10,500 conservationists joined together in the 167 Specialist Groups, Task Forces and Conservation Committees of the IUCN SSC.
The Global Center started in 2017 with a shared vision of the Indianapolis Zoo and the IUCN Species Survival Commission. The goal was to provide the most effective type of support to the SSC network to accelerate the progress from conservation risk assessment and action planning to concrete interventions that will save species.
Dr. Rob Shumaker, president of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. & CEO, Dr. Jon Paul Rodríguez, Chair of the IUCN SSC, and Dr. Grethel Aguilar, acting IUCN Director General, signed into effect an agreement that established the Global Center. The signing took place on Oct. 7, 2019 during the IUCN’s SSC Leaders Meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that every significant conservation project in the world will be touched by the Global Center for Species Survival. This is the next important step in our Zoo’s commitment to advancing animal conservation, and it fundamentally transforms our ability to make a genuine difference in protecting the natural world.
The IUCN SSC network follows the One Plan Approach, which emphasizes collaboration between all parties involved in saving species. This plan utilizes the strengths of in situ and ex situ conservation. When you visit an accredited zoo like the Indianapolis Zoo, you are participating in the conservation of species, because admission fees contribute to the care of biodiversity and wild populations. That care leads to greater understanding of species, and that understanding improves the ability to make an authentic difference in saving species.
“The Global Center represents a turning point for global species conservation. The IUCN SSC strongly believes that this partnership will change the way in which the global network of leading conservationists works together to save species. Indianapolis will be a hub for world-leading expertise and capacity building by working to bridge the gap between experts across the conservation spectrum; from zoo professionals, field practitioners, academics, to government officials.”
The Global Center opened in 2020 with generous support from Lilly Endowment Inc. In addition to serving as a conservation hub, the Global Center also hosts international meetings and conferences, furthering economic benefit to the community and solidifying the Zoo’s efforts to make Indianapolis one of the most conservation-literate cities in the world.
The Global Center team consists of seven conservation experts, a behavior change specialist, a public relations specialist and a director. While the team is based in Indianapolis, they have decades of experience working on five continents to save species from extinction.
“After an exhaustive worldwide search, we are excited to have these extraordinary conservationists join our Indianapolis community and continue their efforts to accelerate the conservation of animals, fungi and plants under water and on land,” said Indianapolis Zoo Senior Vice President and Global Center Director Bill Street. “Their work will be a significant contribution to saving species worldwide and redefine how zoos can support field conservation efforts.”
The Global Center team supports thousands of conservationists who are working to tackle critical planetary issues leading to biodiversity loss, such as invasive species, habitat degradation, overexploitation and illegal wildlife trade.
It is the mission of the Global Center to support the IUCN SSC in influencing, encouraging and assisting societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature.
With more than a decade’s experience supporting freshwater IUCN assessments, Dr. Monika Böhm brings vast knowledge on the diverse conservation issues affecting freshwater species. She has published papers on topics including climate change vulnerability and extinction threat and is a certified Red List trainer, involved in workshops around the world. She has been both a postdoctoral research assistant and research fellow at the Zoological Society of London and is a member of numerous IUCN SSC Specialist Groups.
Dr. Samuel Ivande is a conservation biologist and educator who most recently served as Research and Teaching Director at the foremost conservation and ornithology training institute in western Africa – the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute at the University of Jos in Plateau, Nigeria. Dr. Ivande describes himself as a passionate advocate for citizen participation in bird and biodiversity conservation and research, especially in Africa. He brings his talents in ornithological research, biodiversity monitoring and scientific writing to the Global Center.
As the chair of the IUCN SSC Spider and Scorpion Specialist Group, Dr. Sérgio Henriques uses his more than 20 years of experience mobilizing resources to promote arachnid conservation. He regularly engages with a global network, including other IUCN specialist groups and the Invertebrate Conservation Committee, to tackle threats such as the illegal wildlife trade, using the latest technological tools to reverse the ongoing decline of the most diverse group of organisms on earth, invertebrates.
Riley has been a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission for over eight years. He worked with the SSC Seahorse, Pipefish and Seadragon Specialist Group and the SSC Shark Specialist Group to co-author or facilitate over 600 species assessments for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In 2020, as marine Resource Management Officer for Parks Canada, he surveyed the Southern Gulf Islands for and worked to conserve endangered Southern Resident killer whales. He served as the British Columbia Key Biodiversity Areas Regional Coordinator for Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. Riley has worked on species conservation across Canada and internationally, and has also held roles with The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, and the Calgary Zoo.
Plants and fungi have been the focus of Cátia Canteiro’s career for more than 10 years, beginning with conservation planning and action, including environmental impact assessments, monitoring studies and the restoration of temporary ponds. She previously worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London, where she assessed the extinction risk of more than 500 species for the IUCN Red List.
As a Federal Aid Coordinator with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife, Julia Geschke worked with Division staff and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees to fund a variety of projects, such as wildlife research and monitoring, habitat management on private land, and aquatic resources education. She brings her expertise in conservation policy and geospatial analysis to the Indianapolis Zoo as the Global Center’s Reptile & Amphibian Conservation Coordinator.
Kelly is an energetic advocate for the natural world. As the public relations specialist for the Global Center for Species Survival, she is tasked with helping the public understand the complexities of conservation. Having spent two decades as a communicator, with stints in television news and state government, she knows how to tell engaging stories that encourage listeners to learn and take action.
Bill is a passionate environmental educator, zoologist and conservationist. He has been a leader in zoos and aquariums for over 30 years. He has been a member of the Trends Committee, Wildlife Conservation Committee and Government Affairs Committee of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), Treasurer/Secretary of the International Zoo Educators Association and was Executive Director of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. He assists and consults with zoological facilities on how to increase guest experience, revenues, and design new attractions.