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Ferret looking at the camera


Photo credit: Elisa Dahlberg / USFWS

Our Mission

The Conservation Commons unites the Smithsonian’s cultural and scientific expertise to advance research and share knowledge to sustain Earth’s biodiverse ecosystems.

We engage a spectrum of audiences across disciplines to integrate science and practice into conservation actions – convening, amplifying, and catalyzing ideas to improve conservation outcomes.


What is the Smithsonian Conservation Commons?

The Smithsonian Conservation Commons is an action network within the Smithsonian Institution (SI), harnessing innovative approaches across science and culture to impact conservation practices worldwide.

As part of the Smithsonian’s broader Strategic Plan, the Commons is mobilizing internal capacity and major partner institutions to build a global community of practice that breaks down barriers to:

The Commons scales up the reach and impact of the wealth of conservation science produced and managed by its 9 research centers, 19 museums, and the National Zoo. By taking advantage of SI’s ability to transform complex scientific research into powerful communication tools, the Commons is rapidly becoming a unique platform for public education and awareness.

The Conservation Commons is led by:
National Zoological Park (NZP) and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI)
Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)
National Museum of Natural History (NMNH)
Smithsonian Marine Station (NMNH-SMS)
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH)
Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC)
Office of International Relations (OIR)
National Air and Space Museum (NASM)
Smithsonian Facilities (SF)
Smithsonian Enterprises (SE)


How we are changing the narrative:

Globally, billions of dollars are aimed at adapting, mitigating, offsetting, and recovering from environmental damage caused by human impacts. However, too often these approaches are undertaken without robust backing from evidence-based science. Similarly, scientists are perennially challenged by the lack of opportunity to translate their work into conservation action and conservationists are increasingly frustrated by the lack of accessible scientific information to inform decisions and interventions.

While science is critical to informing lasting solutions, solving major conservation problems requires moving beyond the status quo by bridging efforts across the sciences, arts and humanities, and engaging communities in the process to ensure equitable and ethical conservation.

The Smithsonian, with its diverse, deeply-rooted expertise and unparalleled outreach impact, is uniquely positioned to transform human attitudes and forge lasting solutions that address global conservation targets for the benefit of people and nature.



Action Areas

Through its core Action Areas – Earth Optimism, Movement of Life, and Working Land and Seascapes – the Conservation Commons serves as a convener and amplifier of interdisciplinary collaboration across the Smithsonian and with external partners. The Commons incentivizes applied research to tackle major conservation challenges, like rapid biodiversity loss and the impacts of climate change, and enhances the Smithsonian’s ability to translate knowledge into action by providing examples of conservation success across ecosystems globally.

Working Land and Seascapes: Science serving people and nature.
Movement of Life: Revealing the movement of species across changing land and seascapes.




The Conservation Commons is a group of researchers, administrators, educators, and other experts from across the Smithsonian Institution supported by:

Core Team