Photo: Vern Evans
Special Focus on Global Change
16th Heinz Awards - 2010
Dr. Gretchen Daily is a globally renowned scientist and Stanford University professor who received the 16th Heinz Award with Special Focus on Global Change for her innovative work to calculate the financial benefits of preserving the environment. Dr. Daily has advanced a remarkable new vision that harmonizes conservation and human development. Her work illuminates the many valuable benefits that flow from “natural capital” – embodied in Earth’s lands, waters and biodiversity – to supporting human well-being.
To mainstream these values into a model that can be used by people, governments and corporations, Dr. Daily co-founded the Natural Capital Project, which is creating InVEST, a computer software program helping decision makers identify the locations where conservation should be a top priority because the ecological services provide a high economic value. Her revolutionary calculations about how preserving land and the environment provide financial benefits have played a monumental role benefitting both the people and the habitat of regions around the world.
Dr. Daily’s interest in the value of nature as capital began during her graduate work at Stanford University. More than a decade ago, she edited a collection of essays called Nature’s Services, which outlined how ecosystems are generated, how humans affect them and how to maintain these services alongside human activity. Her research has served as a model for ecosystems regulation in several regions of the world and was a catalyst for the U.N.’s Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
Dr. Daily long theorized that one path to conservation is to put a monetary value on an ecosystem and she is working to help decision makers quantify those values in economic terms. Dr. Daily has changed the debate regarding resource allocation and protection. She has provided the scholarly underpinning for the identification and valuation of ecosystem services, and she has helped convince decision makers throughout the world that they should invest more in conservation.
Note: This profile was written at the time of the awards’ presentation.