Alex Travis and research team in Zambia

A longtime Faculty Fellow and past chair of the Faculty Advisory Board, Alex Travis (VTBIO) will join ACSF as associate director of environment on July 1 

Collaborating for Conservation

June 14, 2013

Alex Travis and research team in Zambia

A longtime Faculty Fellow and past chair of the Faculty Advisory Board, Alex Travis (VTBIO) will join ACSF as associate director of environment on July 1. “People are changing so much of our environment—climate, water quality, biodiversity—at an unprecedented rate and scale,” Travis noted. “It is extremely rewarding to work with ACSF, which brings together the diverse strengths of Cornell to help understand and solve these complex problems.”

Alex TravisAlex Travis (VTBIO)

In his own research, Travis leads a multidisciplinary Cornell team—including economists, food scientists, sociologists, soil scientists, and veterinarians—that collaborates with Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) in Zambia. In an area of desperate poverty and hunger, rural families rely heavily on bushmeat and cutting down trees to make charcoal. With funding from USAID and the Atkinson Center, the team works with Zambians to reduce poaching and deforestation by making sustainable agriculture and community poultry programs more productive and profitable. “By using markets to develop sustainable solutions to poverty and hunger, we can ease the pressures that people put on wildlife,” Travis explained.

Although working in the wild can help many species at once, when species become critically endangered, they need special attention in captive breeding programs. Travis’s lab develops techniques of assisted reproduction that preserve the genetic diversity in a population. Working on both wild and captive sides of conservation with faculty from all over campus inspired Travis to found the Cornell Center for Wildlife Conservation. This virtual center, launched in 2008 with the help of the Atkinson Center, ties together conservation research across disciplines.

“Support from the Atkinson Center is enabling conservation work of all kinds. In Zambia, it helped us show how efforts in sustainable agriculture could tie into global carbon markets,” said Travis. “Because our loss of biodiversity stems directly from human activity, wildlife needs help from disciplines dealing with people, as much as from biologists.”