Fort Collins, CO – Earlier this year, the CSU Salazar Center for North American Conservation announced a $10,000 prize, to be awarded to a faculty or research staff member whose work demonstrates substantial and measurable on-the-ground impact in the field of conservation. Today, the Center is pleased to announce that Dr. Liba Pejchar, an Associate Professor in the department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology in the Warner College of Natural Resources, is the winner of the inaugural CSU Conservation Impact Prize.
“As a land grant university, Colorado State University is committed to improving people’s lives, not just on campus but across Colorado, and beyond,” said CSU President Joyce McConnell. “While this inaugural award is one of the many ways we’re celebrating the university’s sesquicentennial, it is also indicative of how highly we prioritize conservation impact as key to our identity as the #1 most sustainable university in the country. I am so excited to see Dr. Pejchar named the first recipient of this award. Her work exemplifies the real-world impact that our extraordinary faculty and staff have on our world every day.”
Dr. Pejchar was nominated by a number of her peers at CSU for her outstanding work in the field of conservation, including her work on the City of Fort Collins’ Nature in the City program and her efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in her field. “She brings a really unique and valuable perspective to the field of natural resources,” said Tony Cheng, director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute and a professor of Forest & Rangeland Stewardship at CSU, who sat on the review committee for the award. “The lens through which she views conservation doesn’t emphasize negative human impacts like most researchers, she looks for opportunities in which human land uses and economies can have positive impacts on biodiversity.”
Dr. Pejchar’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the City of Fort Collins on its Nature in the City program includes the creation of a bird- and butterfly-monitoring program, a citizen science effort that engages local residents in collecting ecological data. That information, in turn, has been (and continues to be) used by the city to establish science-based conservation targets and to inform its management of urban green spaces and natural areas. Since it was launched, the project has also guided Fort Collins’ decisions on how and where to invest in new conservation efforts and recruited more than 150 community members in data collection—a process that participants say has increased their understanding and appreciation of urban nature and interest in local conservation initiatives. It also served as the hands-on training ground for two former students, each of whom have since embarked on successful careers in environmental planning and conservation.
In addition to her work in Fort Collins, Dr. Pejchar was lauded by her colleagues for her work exploring the impacts of oil and gas and real estate development on wildlife habitat, including policy interventions to support best practices related to land use and private land conservation. Her efforts have helped guide private landowners in developing their properties in ways that sustain biodiversity—an approach one colleague described as revolutionary. “She emphasizes that we can develop and manage human communities in ways that support both conservation and livelihood goals,” said Peter Backlund, associate director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at CSU, another member of the review committee. “Her approach to this kind of conservation development is often overlooked by people in her field, but it’s incredibly important.”
Dr. Pejchar has also been recognized for her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the field of conservation biology. She was the founding advisor of the CSU SEEDS chapter, which seeks to increase equity and diversity in Ecology, and was a member and co-chair of the Warner College of Natural Resources’ Diversity and Inclusion Committee. This work extends to her lab, where she has trained and mentored minority students and peers, who are often underrepresented in conservation biology.
“Perhaps more than any academic at CSU, Liba has been a constant, unwavering, and diplomatic pressure on promoting gender and ethnicity issues for those who serve on the front lines of education, research and service in Colorado,” said Rick Knight, who nominated Dr. Pejchar for the award and is a professor emeritus in the department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at CSU. “Many conservation biologists would like to see more diversity within their field, but few people actually do the work to move us in that direction,” added Ruth Hufbauer, a colleague from the College of Agricultural Sciences who also nominated her.
This was the first time the Salazar Center awarded the CSU Conservation Impact Prize. Nominations from more than a dozen faculty and research staff on campus focused on nominees in three of the CSU’s eight colleges, and the pool highlighted the caliber, range, and diversity of research and impact being realized by the university.
Dr. Pejchar will be recognized at the Salazar Center’s second annual international symposium, which will be held virtually in September.
Contact for reporters:
Catie Boehmer: Catie.Boehmer@colostate.edu, (805) 405-2221