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[Press Release] Conservation International Announcing the Launch of the Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship

Conservation International launches new ‘Dream Team’ fellowship program to accelerate action on pressing global environmental issues

Former heads of state, UN climate lead join diverse, talented inaugural class

Arlington, Va., February 14, 2017 — Today, Conservation International (CI) announced a new, multimillion-dollar fellowship initiative that joins world leaders with some of the most innovative minds in conservation. Named after its founders, CI Board members Dr. Yvonne L.K. Lui and Melani and Rob Walton, the 2017 Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship program recognizes 15 Fellows from 11 countries with diverse backgrounds — from world leaders to first-in-class scientists and conservationists — all dedicated to saving nature and building a healthier, more productive planet.

Each Fellowship provides a full-time salaried position and travel for up to two years. Fellows will have access to resources, professional development and direct participation in CI programs. They will also have the chance to work with CI and its partners to tackle critical conservation challenges in priority areas around the world. The program will fund five classes of Fellows for at least 10 years — supporting approximately 75 “dream team” fellows in all.

The inaugural Fellows class includes Distinguished Fellows Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change; Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former president of Iceland and chairman of the Arctic Circle; and Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati and head of Pacific Rising, an organization dedicated to helping the people of the low-lying Pacific island adapt and thrive in the face of rising sea levels caused by climate change. These world leaders bring expertise in policymaking, climate negotiating and addressing issues such as sea-level rise.

“Thirty years ago, CI was founded with a commitment to bring new ideas to the world of international conservation,” said CI Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann. “The Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship honors that tradition by linking rising stars in science and technology with seasoned leaders from government and civil society. We are grateful to the leadership of Dr. Yvonne Lui and Melani and Rob Walton for establishing this visionary program.”

“The environmental challenges that we face in our home countries require both local and global, sustainable solutions,” said Lui, founder of the Yvonne L.K. Lui Trust. “I’m inspired by and proud to support this exceptional group of international Fellows in their efforts to safeguard the future of our planet and look forward to seeing the impact of the Lui-Walton Fellowship in China, and throughout the world.”

“I am very impressed with the depth of leadership and fresh thinking represented in this diverse and talented inaugural class of Fellows,” said Rob Walton, chairman of the board (retired) for Walmart Stores and CI Board member. “I believe unleashing human ingenuity is key to protecting our natural resources and helping create sustainable solutions for our future. Our Fellows initiative is off to a great start, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”


The full list of 15 Fellows includes:


  1. Anote Tong, Distinguished Fellow. Tong served as president of Kiribati from 2003 to 2016 and is known for his efforts to raise global awareness around climate change and its threats to Pacific Island nations.
  1. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, Distinguished Fellow. As president of Iceland (1996-2016), Grímsson made renewable energy and climate change key areas of focus. In 2013, he founded Arctic Circle, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that forms the largest international gathering on the future of the Arctic.
  1. Christiana Figueres, Distinguished Fellow. Figueres, called the “woman who could stop climate change” by The New Yorker, is a world authority on global climate change and was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010 to 2016.
  1. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Senior Fellow. Rodriquez is a former environment and energy minister for Costa Rica, where he was a pioneer in the development of payment for ecosystem services.
  1. Keith Roberts, Fellow. Roberts spent two decades as a Game Warden and Protected Area Manager for governments and NGOs. His work focuses on working with partners at all levels to mitigate poverty, the main contributor to poaching.
  1. Mauricio Castrejon, Fellow. Castrejon, an expert in sustainable fisheries, is based in the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador.
  1. Marcel Viergever, Fellow. An expert in sustainable landscapes and agriculture, Viergever is based in Brazil, where he works with government, the private sector, communities and indigenous peoples.
  1. Robert Baigrie, Fellow. An expert in strategic partnerships and finance in Southeast Asia, Baigrie is based in Singapore.
  1. Rachel Neugarten, Fellow. Neugarten and her team put human well-being at the center of conservation efforts by mapping “natural capital,” the sources of the benefits that nature provides, such as climate mitigation and adaptation, and freshwater and food security.
  1. Lian Pin Koh, Fellow. Koh is a pioneer in the use of low-cost drone technology for environmental applications and is founding director of ConservationDrones.org, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that seeks to introduce drone technology to scientists and conservationists worldwide.
  1. Cyril Kormos, Fellow. Kormos is Vice Chair for World Heritage of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, Vice President for Policy at The WILD Foundation and expert in primary forests. He will be based in San Francisco.
  1. To-be-named Fellow, based in Hong Kong
  1. To-be-named Fellow, based in Mainland China
  1. To-be-named Fellow, focused on REDD+ climate solutions
  1. To-be-named Fellow, focused on global sustainable landscapes

The Fellowship will formally kick off on Thursday, February 16, with meetings and a high-level discussion with the Distinguished Fellows that will be facilitated by Laurene Powell Jobs on the path forward for collective action on climate change. The discussion will take place at CI’s quarterly Board dinner in Menlo Park, Calif., near where CI was incorporated 30 years ago.


Media Contacts:

Kipp Lanham                                                                           Jenny Parker McCloskey

klanham@conservation.org                                           jparker@conservation.org

703-341-2405                                                                       917-763-3263


Interview opportunities for the Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship include:

  • Select Fellows listed above
  • Peter Seligmann, CI founder and CEO
  • M. Sanjayan, CI executive vice president and senior scientist
  • Program founders — Yvonne L.K. Lui, founder of the Yvonne L.K. Lui Trust and Rob Walton, chairman of the board (retired) for Walmart Stores


About Conservation International

Conservation International (CI) uses an innovative blend of science, policy and partnerships to protect the nature people rely on for food, fresh water and livelihoods. Founded in 1987, CI works in more than 30 countries on six continents to ensure a healthy, prosperous planet that supports us all. Learn more about CI and follow our work on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


See announcement: interested in forming sustainable solutions & becoming a lui walton fellow

See more details in our initiatives: a fellowship investing in talent & sustainable solutions




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