Wild Animal Initiative is launching a fund to support high-impact wild animal welfare research. Over the next two years, the fund will distribute over $3 million to academic research projects designed to understand and improve the lives of wild animals.

The need for this fund

Our scientific understanding of wild animals’ welfare lags far behind our understanding of biodiversity conservation. Closing that gap will require much more research into which animals are sentient, what the quality of their lives is like in the wild, and what humans can do to protect them against both natural and anthropogenic threats to their well-being.

The first goal of this fund is to empower scientists who want to pioneer a new paradigm in wildlife research and management. But this ambitious research agenda will require a wider range of researchers than any one organization could support. So the second goal of this fund is to cultivate a self-sustaining community of scholars — by establishing foundational concepts, developing novel methods, and connecting complementary disciplines.

First call for proposals

We plan to award most of this funding through calls for proposals on important and neglected questions in the wild animal welfare research agenda.

Our inaugural theme is the welfare and ecology of juvenile wild animals. The majority of animals born in the wild die before adulthood. This makes early-life experiences disproportionately important to estimating the welfare of a population or community. Yet this life stage is often poorly understood, in part because the juveniles and adults of many species have different diets, habitats, and even body forms. Consider, for example, the life of a tadpole versus the life of a frog. 

We look forward to considering research proposals on this crucial topic. To apply, please read the full call for proposals and complete this brief expression of interest form by August 29, 2021.

The path ahead

This research fund was made possible by Open Philanthropy, which provided the first $3 million in regrantable funds and covered the first two years of administrative costs. We hope their gift will inspire others to invest in pioneering research, cementing this fund as a constant driver of discovery in defense of wild animals. We invite prospective partners to contact Executive Director Michelle Graham.

Wild Animal Initiative will also continue to support the growth of the field in as many ways as we can. That already includes helping researchers access other sources of funding, connect to skilled collaborators, identify impactful research questions, navigate career decisions, and communicate their work to the public. In the coming year, we plan to add more resources, training opportunities, events, and services. Interested researchers should stay tuned for updates or contact Michelle with specific inquiries.

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