Trustees vote to continue Biodiversity Institute

By Daniel Bendtsen

Laramie Boomerang

Via Wyoming News Exchange

LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted Thursday to continue the Biodiversity Institute, an organization that Ed Snyakowski, Vice President of Research and Economic Development, had been making preparations for the closure of throughout the second half of 2018.

At the trustees’ meeting, Snyakowski announced UW botany professor Brent Ewers as the Biodiversity Institute’s new director. Ewers will take over for Gary Beauvais, who’s served as interim director for about two years.

Ewers expects to spend 2019 leading a task force to develop a “biodiversity research enterprise” yet to be named.

“I am deeply appreciate of where we have come on this,” trustee Michelle Sullivan said. “I think it has the potential to become something very powerful for the state and for the university and I’m really looking forward to watching it unfold as the planning continues.”

Once the new enterprise is developed, the Biodiversity Institute will serve as the outreach arm for that research.

Ewers told the trustees Thursday that, under his vision, the Biodiversity Institute will allow Wyoming K-12 students to learn about the state’s wildlife through the research that’s being done on campus.

The overall goal, he said, will be to “better connect the education and outreach programs … with the biodiversity research that’s ongoing at the university.”

When UW announced in July the plan to close the Biodiversity Institute, administrators repeatedly said that the organization’s private funding, provided by Bob and Carol Berry, would run out by the end of 2018. A Thursday press release from UW states the Biodiversity Institute is still “approaching the end of its available private operational funding.”

Since the Biodiversity Institute was opened in 2012, it has been wholly sustained by the Berrys’ donations.

A funding plan for future fiscal years is set to be created as part of the university’s normal budget process.

Ewers has been tasked with developing a plan for biodiversity research and submitting a report by the end of 2019. Ewers has led UW’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research since 2014.

Faculty Senate chairman Donal O’Toole praised UW for reneging on the decision to close the Biodiversity Institute, which only has five full-time staff but has become one of the more prominent outreach initiatives on campus.

“I think signals are important, especially at this time to the faculty,” he said. “A common question that faculty and staff have is ‘Does the administration listen and can it change course?’ And the answer is yes.”