James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

Crowdfunding Conservation: 10 Inspiring Projects

Crowdfunding relies on the collective effort of tens, hundreds or thousands of individuals – each contributing a small amount of money – to make something happen. It’s already been used to make a giant spider robot, attempt to build a Death Star and all sorts of other high tech kind of things; So why not conservation?

Crowdfunding conservation is for me, just another cracking example of Citizen Science. Sometimes people don’t have the time, know-how, or desire to get involved with conservation at home or abroad, but they want to do something – and so crowdfunding can provide the answer.

So, how about using it for conservation? Well, here’s 10 great projects aiming to crowdfund conservation.

1. Watching Clouds in the Cloud Forest

Amount Raised: $1,912

Number of backers: 35

Project: Scientific equipment

Greg Goldsmith and his team are aiming to improve understanding about how climate change might affect vulnerable tropical montane cloud forests.

“Tropical montane cloud forests are home to an incredible number of plant and animal species. Our research site, the world famous Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde, Costa Rica is home to over 500 species of orchids and over 400 species of birds alone, many of which occur nowhere else on the planet. Because of their beauty and biodiversity, cloud forests are often centers for ecotourism, providing livelihoods for the people that live around them.”

“We are asking for your contributions to help us purchase a visibility sensor that will monitor cloud cover in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. With this equipment, we will be able to study how plants and animals interact with the clouds that define this ecosystem, as well as monitor how cloud cover is changing over time.” Read more..

2. Return of the Black Turtle

Amount Raised: $11,766

Number of backers: 110

Project: Conservation Photography

Niel Osborne and J. Nichols aim to tell the remarkable conservation story of Grupo Tortuguero and the rare Black Turtle.

“By land, by sea, and by air, Return of the Black Turtle will retrace J.’s efforts to build Grupo Tortuguero. With the initial help of a handful of pioneering fisherman, J. and his team have been able to protect the turtles from every angle, growing an expansive network by engaging researchers, government agents, ex-convicts, drag racers, as well as the Seri Indians of coastal Sonora, for whom sea turtles have long held important nutritional, utilitarian, and cultural value.”

“Return of the Black Turtle will be a conservation photography expedition that proves the power of a symbiotic relationship between biology and art, science and storytelling. It will be a narrative rooted in scientific exploration, animated by the colorful characters of the Mexican coastline. It will be told through the personal anecdotes that connect cultural tradition and folklore, corrupt officials and poor fishermen, unmitigated pollution and against-the-odds survival.”

3. Asian Elephant Conservation Documentary

Amount Raised: $10,710

Number of backers: 152

Project: Documentary

A film about conservationists inventing innovative strategies to alleviate the pressure of human elephant conflict in Sri Lanka.

“Common Ground is an independent documentary collaboration with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society. The elephant and the people of Sri Lanka have shared a cultural bond and relationship that is over 5,000 years old. Today this relationship is in danger of disintegrating mainly due to the loss of elephant habitat that is creating intense conflicts between people (mostly rural subsistence farmers) and elephants.”

The project hopes to raise sufficient funds to complete and produce the documentary.

4. Preserving The Azores Bullfinch

Amount Raised: $13,535

Number of backers: 426

Project: Conservation Fieldwork

“The Azores bullfinch – the priolo (Pyrrhula murina) – is an endangered species endemic to the eastern mountains of the island of São Miguel in the Azores (Portugal). Considered almost extinct in the 20th century with numbers dropping to just 300, today there is a small population of just over 1,000 priolos in total. Its habitat is highly threatened by the invasion of alien plant species.

The work so far has focused on the preservation of two critical habitats of São Miguel Island: Azores laurel forest and the Azorean peat bogs. Overall, we have already recovered about 350 hectares of natural habitats in the eastern mountains of São Miguel Island; this was only possible with the hard work of an experienced and qualified team, this has created over 20 jobs/year in nature conservation in the two most rural and remote councils of the island.

The bird is not only a national treasure and endemic, it is also a part of the Azorean and the world’s biodiversity. We need to monitor the areas and the bird so that we can prevent new invasions by alien plants in the main natural areas. To maintain the forest, it is essential to control new invasions and propagate approximately 30,000 plants per year and plant them to increase food availability for the priolo. At least $60,000 are required to maintain the more urgent work. We need your help to raise a significant part of these funds.”

Find out more about the Azores bullfinch project..

5. Empty Hands, Open Arms

Amount Raised: $4,223

Number of backers: 60

Project: Book

Empty Hands Open Arms tells the story of a different approach to rainforest and wildlife conservation. Deni Bechard followed the work of Congolese and American conservationists in the Congo rainforest together with the Bonobo Conservation initiative.

The conservationists that Deni writes about “work with the values of local people, with their folklore and spiritual beliefs, in order to create cultural support for conservation. They focus on community consensus and finding ways to address the needs of the local people through conservation. The result is a conservation movement that might be characterized as viral, neighboring communities creating their own protected areas with virtually no funding.”

This Kickstarter project aims to raise enough money to finish writing a book about his experiences; inspired through having witnessed how they have been able to set up numerous reserves for this iconic species, with limited funds.


6. Documenting Rare Species: Blue Spotted-Jefferson Salamander

Amount Raised: $3,509

Number of backers: 105

Project: Field Survey

Timothy Beaulieu and a team of conservation biologists aim to survey, document and map rare salamander species in Massachusetts, in a race against time to protect them.

“This salamander, which depends on mature upland forest and temporary ponds (i.e., vernal pools) to complete its life cycle, is threatened by habitat loss due to commercial and residential development, and by habitat alteration due to certain logging practices.”

“State biologists, researchers, and land managers needs biological data on the distribution and population abundance of this species in order to make informed conservation management decisions and ensure the future survival of the species within the state.”

Here’s a great photo gallery of their fieldwork: Images


7. The Bee Shed

Amount Raised: £120 (so far..)

Number of backers: 6

Project: Education

The Bee Shed really is an unusual project , and that’s why it caught my eye. Here’s Mick Parker’s pitch:

“I wish to renovate a dilapidated large shed that is near my apairy and convert it into a classroom. The idea being that once renovated I would use it to take school visits give them a talk on Honey bees and their importance to us and then give them a tour of the apiary (hands on) in full protective gear…I see this being used by the schools as a valuable learning resource.”

The best part is, he’s only asking for £500. Bargain!


8. Forest Recovery in Central Borneo

Amount Raised: $545

Number of backers: 19

Project: Conservation Fieldwork

Francis Brearley is hoping to raise funds to continue a long term field project in Borneo.

He plans to “measure the diameter of over one thousand trees that I have permanently marked and, in some cases, have monitored for nearly 15 years and will work out how fast they are growing. Using mathematical equations, combined with an analysis of the wood carbon content, I can then calculate the amount of carbon stored in these trees and how it is increasing over time.”

And why is he trying to crowd fund this project? “Currently, it is very difficult to obtain money for projects such as mine which aim at obtaining a long-term data series even though such data-sets which span nearly 15 years in my case are really valuable.”

9. Snakes, Birds and Disappearing Chile Peppers

Amount Raised: $728

Number of backers: 13

Project: Conservation Fieldwork

Haldre Rogers is aiming to unravel the mystery of disappearing chile peppers on the island of Guam. Here’s the story…

“Local residents of the island of Guam tell me that there are fewer wild pepper plants now than there used to be before the invasive Brown Treesnake was present or prevalent. But snakes don’t eat hot peppers, so how on earth would a snake cause a decline in the abundance of hot peppers? I hope to unravel this mystery in a field project this summer on the islands of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.”

10. Size of Wales

Not a crowd funding project in the modern sense, but an iconic example of what lots of people working together can achieve for conservation.

Amount Raised: £2,004,175

Number of backers: 1000s!

Project: Tropical Rainforest Conservation

Size of Wales is a unique project that aims to bring everyone in Wales (and around the world) together to help sustain an area of tropical forest the size of Wales as part of a national response to climate change.

‘An area the size of Wales’ is frequently used to measure the rate of forest destruction. Through Size of Wales, we aim to turn that negative use of the country’s size on its head, by encouraging the people of Wales to take positive action and help protect an area of rainforest equivalent to the size of our nation.

On 1st March 2013 Size of Wales supporters successfully reached the target of raising £2 million to help protect an area of rainforest equivalent to the size of Wales!

Read more on the Size of Wales website…

Any other great projects, or raising money for your own project? Let me know in the comments below..