Through its Climate Adaptation Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is soliciting proposals from nonprofit conservation organizations implementing new methods that help wildlife adapt to the rapidly-shifting environmental conditions brought about by climate change, one of the top crises facing the world today. For the first time in its 15-year history, the World Economic Forum placed climate change near the top of its list of concerns for the global economy’s future. In October 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a special report on the accelerated pace and magnitude of human-caused climate change. The report’s findings are sobering: if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, the Earth’s atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2040. This pace of change is faster than earlier forecasts by the IPCC, and likely to result in devastating impacts such as coastal flooding, drought, wildfires, food shortages, and myriad disruptions to populations and economies.  

In response to the ever-increasing urgency of climate change, WCS’s Climate Adaptation Fund is shifting its funding priorities to advance learning and increase the pace and scale of impact in adaptation for wildlife and ecosystems. The Fund will award up to $2.5 million in grants in 2021 across two grant categories:

  1. Adaptation Implementation - up to $300,000 over three years for adaptation implementation projects with an innovative component, with up to $50,000 funding evidence gathering activities.
  2. Mainstreaming - up to $100,000 over two years for projects mainstreaming an adaptation approach with demonstrated success and demand/need at a larger scale.

Since 2011, the Climate Adaptation Fund has invested over $21 million in grant awards to U.S. conservation non-profits in order to catalyze innovative, science-driven projects responding to the impacts of climate change on wildlife and people. In 2021, the Fund will shift its focus from how conservationists plan and implement their work, to the rate and scale at which conservationists are implementing their work and the rate at which they are learning.

Liz Tully, Associate Director for the Climate Adaptation Fund, said: “More intentional and rapid learning through innovation, evidence gathering, and results sharing within the conservation sector is essential if we are to achieve durable outcomes for wildlife and ecosystems, and the people that value and depend on them.”

Dr. Erika Zavaleta, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, University of California Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, said: “The Fund is interested in promising innovation at any stage or scale of the adaptation field in conservation. These could be new approaches or actions, new ways of understanding whether it works, new scaling approaches, etc. Applicants should be targeting innovation across stages and parts, not just in one dimension.”

In addition to implementing innovative approaches to adaptation, projects in this category must be explicitly designed to maximize learning by gathering evidence and sharing results. While raising standards, applicants at varying levels of preparedness to a rigorous evidence gathering requirement are welcomed. The Fund recognizes some organizations may have limited in-house capacity to meet this requirement but still have promising adaptation solutions to test and learn from. Eligibility is based on the capacity needs and limitations of the applicant organization, the strength of their adaptation project, and the learning potential of their work.

All applicants will also be required to articulate the co-benefits that their work will deliver to people and the carbon implications of their adaptation work. While the primary focus of these grants is to serve wildlife and ecosystems, the Fund believes that co-benefits such as mitigation benefits, physical and sociocultural benefits, and economic benefits are embedded in adaptation work and should be accounted for. Further, work that includes these elements can lay the groundwork for inclusive cultural, regulatory, and financial systems that are more likely to adopt or apply adaptation approaches.

The WCS Climate Adaptation Fund is a program made possible through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Applicants can read the Request for Proposals and Applicant Guidance Document for more details, and must complete a pre-proposal application using the WCS Climate Adaptation Fund’s online form no later than no later than Wednesday, April 28, 2021 by 7:00 PM ET / 4:00 PM PT.

For weekly updates and resources from the Climate Adaptation Fund, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @WCSAdapts.

For more information, videos, and detailed descriptions of projects previously supported by the WCS Climate Adaptation Fund, visit our website: