What is the Southeastern Grasslands Initiative?

The Southeastern Grasslands Initiative (SGI) is a collaboration of leaders in international biodiversity conservation led by the Austin Peay State University Center of Excellence for Field Biology.

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SGI also works in close partnership with the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, North Carolina Botanical Garden, and Roundstone Native Seed. SGI seeks to integrate research, consultation, and education, along with the administration of grants, to create innovative solutions to address the multitude of complex issues facing Southeastern grasslands, the most imperiled ecosystems in eastern North America.

Our focal region, shown below, includes parts or all of 23 states.


The challenges facing southern grasslands are complex

  • Lack of Education: We still don’t know how many grasslands we’ve lost, where they were, or what they contained. There is still a lack of public awareness about the current and historical importance of grasslands. Education must be an integral factor going forth.

  • Declining Expertise: Universities are moving away from training new generations of field biologists & conservationists, resulting in a scarcity of skilled professionals needed now more than ever to identify, study, and conserve grasslands and grassland biodiversity.

  • Diminished Resources: Critical resources such as staffing, equipment, fire crews, and seed sources needed for conservation are lacking.

  • Scarcity of Funding: Grants are biased towards Midwestern grasslands. They are highly competitive and not a reliable source of funding. Many aspects of Southeastern grasslands conservation has no funding source.

  • Extreme Rarity: There are few remnants. We can’t afford to lose anymore. Many grasslands are functionally extinct and only re-creation can save them.

  • No Grassland Seedbank: Locally-adapted seeds are not available for most grassland species or for most regions of the Southeast, greatly restricting our ability to develop source materials needed to recreate, restore, and support resilient ecosystems.

  • Lack of Focused Research: We need a database to understand what grasslands remain in the Southeast and to allow informed prioritization for research and conservation.

  • No Mechanism for Rapid Rescue: As habitat loss is accelerating, we still have no mechanism in place for rapid rescue of grassland species or of grassland remnants.

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SGI: a clearinghouse for grassland conservation

Through its partnerships and collaborations, SGI will address our diminishing biodiversity to a global audience. We will fulfill this goal through four objectives:

  • Research: SGI will serve a leadership role in conducting, organizing, and prioritizing research and monitoring efforts of Southeastern grasslands.

  • Consultation: SGI will provide expert services to state and federal agencies, NGOs, corporations, and private landowners for grassland-related projects.

  • Education: SGI will provide educational and outreach resources to the public via development of programs, workshops, tools, publications, and curricula to enhance public understanding of Southern grasslands.

  • Granting Program: SGI will work with private and corporate donors to offer a diverse range of grants to our partners in Southeastern conservation for projects that focus on grassland conservation, research, or education and outreach.


Turning philanthropy into impact

By strategically joining forces with SGI, we can tackle biodiversity conservation ways that cannot be achieved by any one partner alone. Gifts to SGI will support:

  • Bringing together partners to achieve on-the-ground conservation, research, and education

  • Development of transformational approaches that will curb the loss of Southeastern grasslands and recreate lost landscapes

  • Training the next generation of conservationists in biodiversity research, seed banking, and restoration.

  • Making it possible to address and realize solutions more quickly across a broad region of the eastern U.S. covering 21 states and 10 ecoregions