Island Conservation

Island Conservation is a non-profit organization with the mission to prevent extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. Island Conservation has therefore focused its efforts on islands with species categorized as Critically Endangered and Endangered on the IUCN's Red List. Working in partnership with local communities, government management agencies, and conservation organizations, Island Conservation develops plans and implements the removal of invasive alien species,[4] and conducts field research to document the benefits of the work and to inform future projects.

Island Conservation
Island Conservation Logo
FoundersDr. Bernie Tershy,[1] and Dr. Don Croll[2]
Type501(c)(3) Non-profit Organization
FocusConserving island habitats and species
Area served
Caribbean, North America, South America, Pacific
Key people
Dr. Karen Poiani, CEO
$7.0 million in 2019[3]
WebsiteIsland Conservation

Island Conservation's approach is now being shown to have a wider beneficial effect on the marine systems surrounding its project areas.[5][6][7] In addition, invasive vertebrate eradication has now been shown to have many benefits besides conservation of species. Specifically, the approach has been found to align with 13 UN Sustainable Development Goals and 42 associated targets encompassing marine and terrestrial biodiversity conservation, promotion of local and global partnerships, economic development, climate change mitigation, human health and sanitation and sustainable production and consumption.[8][9]

To date Island Conservation has deployed teams to protect 994 populations of 389 species on 52 islands.[10]

The work of Island Conservation is not without controversy, This is documented in the book Battle at the End of Eden.[11] Restoring islands requires removing whole populations of an invasive species. There is an ethical question whether humankind has the right to remove one species to save others. However, a 2019 study suggests that if eradications of invasive animals were conducted on just 169 islands, the survival prospects of 9.4% of the Earth's most highly threatened terrestrial insular vertebrates would be improved.[12][13]


Island Conservation was founded by Bernie Tershy and Don Croll, both Professors at UCSC's Long Marine Lab. These scientists learned about the story of Clipperton Island which had been visited by ornithologist Ken Stager of the Los Angeles County Museum in 1958. Appalled at the depredations visited by feral pigs upon the island's brown booby and masked booby colonies (reduced to 500 and 150 birds, respectively), Stager procured a shotgun and removed all 58 pigs. By 2003, the colonies numbered 25,000 brown boobies and 112,000 masked boobies, the world's second-largest brown booby colony and largest masked booby colony.[14]

Much of organization's early focus was working in Mexico in conjunction with its sister organization, Conservación de Islas, in the Gulf of California and off the Pacific Coast.[15][16] Subsequently, Island Conservation expanded its geographic scope to the Channel Islands of California, Pacific Coast of Canada, The Aleutians Islands, Hawaiian Islands, and finally to the Pacific, Caribbean, and South America.

Island Conservation has a strong scientific grounding. Over 70 peer-reviewed publications in major journals such as Biological Conservation, Conservation Biology and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science have been authored or co-authored by Island Conservation staff and contractors.[17]


As Island Conservation does not have management responsibility over any islands itself, all projects are in partnership with the island owner/manager, island users, local communities and regulatory authorities. Since its founding in 1994, the organization has developed partnerships with over 100 organizations.[18] Partners include conservation organizations, government agencies, regulatory agencies, scientific institutions, and international conservation consortiums. Island Conservation is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Alliance for Zero Extinction,[19] and has a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Fish & Wildlife Service,[20] and BirdLife International,[21] amongst others.

Advisory CouncilEdit

The organization's founding Advisory Board[22] is composed of prominent scientists, practitioners, and authors in the fields of conservation biology and invasive species including Paul Ehrlich, José Sarukhán Kermez, Russell Mittermeier, Harold Mooney, David Quammen, Peter Raven, Michael Soulé, and Edward O. Wilson.


North AmericaEdit

In this region, Island Conservation currently works in the United States and Canada. In the United States, the Anacapa Island Restoration Project[23][24][25] was completed in 2002 and benefited the Scripps's murrelet, Cassin's auklet, and Anacapa Deer Mouse. The Lehau Island Restoration Project was completed in 2006 which benefited Newell's shearwater and black-footed albatross.[26][27] Subsequently, projects completed include the Hawadax Island Restoration Project[28][29][30] in 2008, the San Nicolas Island Project[31][32][33] in 2010, and the Palmyra Island Restoration Project[34] in 2011.

Key federal government partnerships in North America include in the US Department of Interior, USFWS, NPS, the US Department of Agriculture-APHIS, National Wildlife Research Center, NOAA, Parks Canada Agency, and Environment and Climate Change Canada. Island Conservation is working with the following non-governmental organizations: Coastal Conservation Association (CA), Bird Studies Canada, American Bird Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and Conservación de Islas.


Since 2010, Island Conservation has contributed to the development and implementation of island restoration projects in Australia (Lord Howe Island[35] and Norfolk Island), French Polynesia (Acteon-Gambier Archipelago Restoration Project[36] in 2015), Tonga (Late Island and numerous small islets), Republic of Palau (including within the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon World Heritage Area[37]), Federated States of Micronesia (Ulithi Lagoon), and New Caledonia (Walpole Island). Island Conservation is an active member of the Pacific Invasives Partnership.[38] Other key partnerships include Invasive Species Council,[39] BirdLife International, New Zealand Department of Conservation, SPREP and the Ornithological Society of French Polynesia.


In this region, Island Conservation works primarily in Puerto Rico, The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. In May 2012, Island Conservation and the Bahamas National Trust worked together to remove invasive house mice from Allen Cay to protect native species including the Allen Cays rock iguana and Audubon's shearwater.[40] Since 2008, Island Conservation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have worked together to remove invasive vertebrates from Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge in Puerto Rico, primarily benefiting the Higo Chumbo cactus, three endemic reptiles, two endemic invertebrates, and to recover globally significant seabird colonies of brown boobies, red-footed boobies, and bridled terns.[41] Future work will focus on important seabird populations, key reptile groups including West Indian Rock Iguanas, and the restoration of Mona Island,[42] Alto Velo, and offshore cays in the Puerto Rican Bank and The Bahamas. Key partnerships include the USFWS, Puerto Rico DNER, the Bahamas National Trust, and the Dominican Republic Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

South AmericaEdit

In this region, Island Conservation works primarily in Ecuador and Chile. In Ecuador, the Rábida Island Restoration Project was completed in 2010. A gecko (Phyllodactylus sp.) found during monitoring in late 2012 was only recorded from subfossils estimated at more than 5,700 years old. Live Rábida Island endemic land snails (Bulimulus (Naesiotus) rabidensis), not seen since collected over 100 years ago, were also collected in late 2012.[43] This was followed in 2012 by the Pinzon and Plaza Sur Island Restoration Project primarily benefiting the Pinzón giant tortoise, Opuntia galapageia, Galápagos land iguana. As a result of the project, Pinzon Giant Tortoise hatched from eggs and were surviving in the wild for the first time in more than 150 years[44][45][46][47] The current focus in Ecuador is Floreana Island with 55 IUCN threatened species present and 13 extirpated species that could be reintroduced after invasive mammals are eradicated. Partners include: The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Ministry of Environment (Galápagos National Park Directorate, Galápagos Biosecurity Agency), the Ministry of Agriculture, the Floreana Parish Council and the Galapagos Government Council.

In 2009 Chile, Island Conservation initiated formal collaborations with CONAF, the country's protected areas agency, to further restoration of islands under their administration. In January 2014, the Choros Island Restoration Project was completed benefiting the Humboldt penguin, Peruvian diving petrel, and the local eco-tourism industry.[48][49] The focus of future work includes the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve and the Juan Fernández Archipelago.


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  2. ^ "Don Croll UCSC Faculty Profile". UCSC. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  3. ^ "IRS 990 Form" (PDF). Island Conservation. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  4. ^ "What are Invasive Alien Species?". CBD Secretariat. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  5. ^ McCauley, Douglas (May 17, 2012). "From wing to wing: the persistence of long ecological interaction chains in less-disturbed ecosystems". Nature. 2: 409. doi:10.1038/srep00409. PMC 3354671. PMID 22624091.
  6. ^ Graham, Nicolas (July 12, 2018). "Seabirds enhance coral reef productivity and functioning in the absence of invasive rats" (PDF). Nature. 559 (7713): 250–253. doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0202-3. PMID 29995864. S2CID 49669772.
  7. ^ "Marine Threat:Islands & Marine Biodiversity". Revive & Restore. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  8. ^ de Wit, Luz A; Zilliacus, Kelly M; Quadri, Paulo; Will, David; Grima, Nelson; Spatz, Dena; Holmes, Nick; Tershy, Bernie; Howald, Gregg R; Croll, Donald A (2020). "Invasive vertebrate eradications on islands as a tool for implementing global Sustainable Development Goals". Environmental Conservation. 47 (3): 139–148. doi:10.1017/S0376892920000211. ISSN 0376-8929.
  9. ^ "Pursuing Sustainable Development for Island Communities by Removing Invasive Species". Island Conservation. 13 August 2020. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
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  11. ^ "Battle at the End of Eden". Atlantic Books. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
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  14. ^ "Clipperton Island: Pig Sty, Rat Hole and Booby Prize" (PDF). Marine Ornithology. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  15. ^ "Island Conservation Action in Northwest Mexico" (PDF). Proceedings of the Fifth California Islands Symposium. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, CA. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  16. ^ Aguirre-Muñoz, Alfonso; Croll, Donald A.; Donlan, C. Josh; Henry, R. William; Hermosillo, Miguel Angel; Howald, Gregg R.; Keitt, Bradford S.; Luna-Mendoza, Luciana; Rodríguez-Malagón, Marlenne; Salas-Flores, Luz María; Samaniego-Herrera, Araceli; Sanchez-Pacheco, Jose Angel; Sheppard, Jacob; Tershy, Bernie R.; Toro-Benito, Jorge; Wolf, Shaye; Wood, Bill (2008). "High-impact Conservation: Invasive Mammal Eradications from the Islands of Western México". AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. 37 (2): 101–7. doi:10.1579/0044-7447(2008)37[101:HCIMEF]2.0.CO;2. PMID 18488552.
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  18. ^ "2014 Annual Report" Archived 2016-06-21 at the Wayback Machine, Island Conservation, p. 17.
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  20. ^ "Director's Corner: Partnership to Prevent Extinctions Strengthened, April 28, 2015". United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  21. ^ "Partnership to tackle Pacific pests". Birdlife International. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  22. ^ "Advisory Board Members". Island Conservation. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  23. ^ "Restoring Anacapa Island: Seabird Habitat". NPS. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  24. ^ "Anacapa Island thrives after rat eradication". Los Angeles Times. 2013-03-07. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  25. ^ "Rat eradication restores wildlife to Channel island / Hatching of rare seabird gives hope Park Service plan is working". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
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  30. ^ Stolzenburg, William (June 19, 2012). Rat Island: Predators in Paradise and the World's Greatest Wildlife Rescue. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 978-1608193325.
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  33. ^ "San Nicolas Island". NOAA. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  34. ^ "Palmyra Atoll Restoration Project Completes Removal of Introduced Rats". The Nature Conservancy. Archived from the original on 18 June 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  35. ^ "Rodent Eradication". Lord Howe Island Board. 2015-06-21. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  36. ^ "Update from the field: expedition Acteon Gambier". Ornithological Society of French Polynesia. 2015-06-27. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  37. ^ "Rock Islands Southern Lagoon World Heritage Area". UNESCO. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  38. ^ "Pacific Invasives Partnership". SPREP. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  39. ^ "Invasive Species Council Homepage". Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  40. ^ "Native Iguanas and Shearwaters saved from invasive mice on Allen Cay". Bahamas National Trust. Archived from the original on 18 June 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  41. ^ "Restoring Wildlife Habitat on Desecheo Island". USFWS. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  42. ^ "Mona Island Restoration Project". Island Conservation. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  43. ^ "Back from the Brink of Extinction". Island Conservation. 2013-07-24. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  44. ^ Aguilera, Washington Tapia; Málaga, Jeffreys; Gibbs, James P. (2015-01-14). "Conservation: Giant tortoises hatch on Galapagos island". Nature. 517 (7534): 271. Bibcode:2015Natur.517Q.271A. doi:10.1038/517271a. PMID 25592525.
  45. ^ "Baby giant tortoises hatch in the Galapagos Islands for first time in a century". Mashable. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  46. ^ "Baby Tortoises Born On Galapagos Island For The First Time In A Century". Huffington Post. 2015-03-03. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  47. ^ "Phase II Galápagos Project: Baiting Pinzón and Plaza Sur Islands". Bell Laboratories. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  48. ^ "Registran positiva restauración ecológica en isla Choros" (in Spanish). CONAF. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  49. ^ "Choros Island Restoration Project". Island Conservation. Retrieved 13 June 2016.

External linksEdit