Carnegie Museum of Natural History

For more information, contact: Leigh Kish
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
412.622.3361 (0), 412.526.8587 (C)

January 17, 2012


Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems Poised to Become Leader in Appalachian Ecosystems
$730,000 grant helps expand research and education programs

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania… Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems has received a grant of $730,000 from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The funds will help establish the Center—anchored at the museum’s environmental research station Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, PA—as the authority on Appalachian ecosystems. The waterways and temperate forests of the Appalachian region—more than 800 miles from Alabama to central New York—are biologically important yet currently not well understood or studied in a holistic way. The Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems will utilize the Richard King Mellon Foundation grant to establish national and international partnerships that will make Powdermill Nature Reserve the premier location to study the flora and fauna of Appalachia.           

            “This generous grant allows the Center to assume a leadership role in understanding the ecosystems of Appalachia. The Center will assess historical environmental impacts from industry and the need for ongoing mitigation, and initiate new research about animal and plant life. Our research will consider factors influencing the region today, including energy development,” says John Wenzel, director of the Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems.


Increasing Scientific Data Collection Capabilities 

            The Center currently oversees a robust migratory bird research program, including collection of more than 50 years of bird banding data and development of new bioacoustics research to capture bird migration data at night. Wenzel and his team hope to expand this kind of long-term, innovative data collection into other areas of study, including conducting inventories of trees, plants, insects, and aquatic macroinvertebrates of the Appalachian region, and how these populations change over time.

            The grant will allow the work of Powdermill's geographic information systems (GIS) laboratory to expand significantly in scope and detail. Powdermill’s GIS lab will serve as a reference library and data repository, and will analyze and publish data about the effects of development—particularly energy industry activity—on environmental and ecosystem health. The grant also funds incorporating DNA technology into monitoring programs at Powdermill, which will allow greater precision and wider utility of data generated from these efforts.


Providing Training to Scientists 

            The grant will also fund the expansion of science education and training for scientists. New professional development, training and certification programs, and symposia using Powdermill’s resources are already underway for PA Department of Environmental Protection and regional conservation groups.

            Programs to help provide training and experiences for graduate students have also been proposed, including the first international exchange program for advanced students from Latin America to study the temperate forests of our area. It is common for American students to travel to Latin American countries to study tropical ecosystems, but a program does not yet exist for the reverse to occur. Center-issued grants may be awarded to support graduate research projects.

            The knowledge generated by research at Powdermill will be shared with the public through exhibitions and programming. 


Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems 

Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems engages scientists from collaborating institutions worldwide to understand, manage, and sustain the health of local and global ecosystems. It utilizes the museum’s vast collections and the environmental research center Powdermill Nature Reserve as a living laboratory for ecological research and as a site for visiting researchers and educators studying the mid-Appalachian ecosystem. The Center creates interdisciplinary research and educational projects that address some of the most pressing scientific questions of our time: questions regarding changes to the environment—past, present, and future—and how these changes affect life and Earth. The Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems launched in January 2011 and is under the direction of John Wenzel.


Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the website,