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On the Land

Working for People and Planet

Discover how our research explores the vital connections between people and places.

Working Together for a Sustainable Earth

Smithsonian researchers and global partners aim to create a balance between nature and people for a more sustainable future. Our work spans multiple ecosystems, from Kenya’s Masai Mara to America’s prairies, and nearly every continent, with goals to conserve iconic species and ecosystems and increase our resilience to the effects of climate change.

 

Rewilding: Ecosystem and Carbon Benefits

We aim to understand the impacts of changing landscapes on wildlife, from bison to prairie dogs to insects, and, in turn, their impact on landscape resilience. We’re working to reintroduce iconic species like addax, black-footed ferret, scimitar-horned oryx, and swift fox, with findings that indicate that native species can significantly improve carbon storage capacity.

 

 

Counting Carbon, Cultivating Change

GEO-TREES will be the world’s first ground-based, equitably developed forest biomass reference system, designed to make global satellite-based forest carbon assessments actionable. This unprecedented multi-network collaboration, which expands upon ForestGEO, the Smithsonian’s Forest Global Earth Observatory, will use innovative technology, partnerships and training, broad sampling and long-term commitment, and open-access data to provide the groundwork for devising strategies to mitigate climate change.

 

Maintaining Resilient Grasslands

Grasslands may be more reliable carbon sink that trees, especially as drought and wildfire risk become more frequent and severe. Across North American grasslands, we’re improving 57,000 acres of land by updating day-to-day buffalo care, installing wildlife-friendly fencing, and implementing shared land monitoring strategies across four Tribal communities. This project is setting the standard for restoration efforts across neighboring grasslands with similar levels of degradation.

 

Tracking the Movement of Life

For more than 100 years, Smithsonian scientists and partners have tracked animals across changing landscapes to reveal the role that animal movement plays in sustaining planetary biodiversity. Our projects, which include obtaining actionable insights into the movements of species at risk, are facilitated by strong partnerships with managers on the ground.

 

 

Applying Emerging Technologies

High-resolution satellite and aerial imagery, unmanned aerial systems, and deep learning techniques are revolutionizing how scientists monitor change across the planet. By working with computer scientists from collaborating institutions, Smithsonian researchers are pushing technological boundaries to create a framework to assess change in wildlife populations and distribution from space.