Inclusive Conservation Community Initiative (ICON)

Three participants at the NCEP Studio sketching on posterboard.
Participants collaborating on best teaching practices at the NCEP Conservation Teaching and Learning Studio. 

Today’s complex conservation challenges require innovative solutions—the type of solutions that can only come from the plurality of voices, ideas, and perspectives found in a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and culturally vibrant workforce. 

In response to the systemic biases and barriers that impede the full participation of historically underrepresented groups in the conservation fields, the CBC created the Inclusive Conservation Community Initiative (ICON, formerly named the Enhancing Diversity in Conservation Science Initiative) in 2001. This Initiative reflects the CBC’s commitment to the recruitment, success, and retainment of historically underrepresented groups in the conservation workforce. ICON is a cross-cutting priority in all of CBC's programs and projects, including internal workplace practices that promote our commitment to an equitable, inclusive, diverse and just community. Ultimately, the initiative aims to encourage diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the field of conservation. 

The CBC's Approach

Student practices pipetting in a lab.
Under CBC scientist mentorship, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) student Danny Veronese studies Asian primate genetics to shed light on wildlife trade in these threatened animals. 

Advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the field of biodiversity conservation is a natural component of the CBC’s approach to transforming diverse sources of knowledge into conservation action. We believe that including a variety of voices, vantage points, and expertise will result in a more vibrant, robust and higher functioning profession. Through ICON, we have fostered a learning community of scientists, educators, and conservation practitioner partners to promote the recruitment, achievement, and success of students and early career professionals from historically underrepresented groups in the field of conservation.

Through a combined approach of research, mentoring, training and outreach communication, and other activities, ICON supports individuals and organizations as they compile resources, build networks, communities of practice, new ideas, and pathways to conservation careers. Our strategy involves collaborating with individuals, agencies with similar objectives and focus on evidence-based approaches and interventions, including Green 2.0 and the Diversity Joint Venture for Conservation Careers. 

Two students stand by their turtle poster preparing to present their research.
Science Research Mentoring Program (SRMP) students worked with CBC scientists to develop their communications skills. 

For example, we partner with the Museum’s Education Department to expand opportunities for internships in conservation biology through the Science Research Mentoring Program for high school students. ICON has also strengthened mentoring opportunities for students at CBC’s Student Conference on Conservation Science–New York (SCCS-NY) through near-peer mentoring and other targeted opportunities. Through coordinated workshops and publications, ICON also helped to establish the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB)’s board-level committee on equity, inclusion, and diversity.

The CBC remains committed to our vision of a diverse and culturally vibrant conservation workforce, capable of addressing the complex conservation issues of today and tomorrow, and is actively seeking new partners and collaborations.

Additional resources: 


Project partners: 

Funding for the CBC’s Inclusive Conservation Community Initiative has been provided by V. H. Donnelley, Strachan Donnelley Family Charitable Lead Unitrust and by Marshall M. Weinberg.