CLEMSON, S.C. — James C. Kennedy, chairman of the communications, media and automotive services conglomerate Cox Enterprises, has given $3.3 million to Clemson University to establish and endow the James C. Kennedy Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation Center headquartered at the Belle W. Baruch Institute for Coastal Ecology and Forest Science in Georgetown and Nemours Wildlife Foundation in Beaufort.
The center will be the first endowed waterfowl conservation center along the 3,000-mile Atlantic Flyway stretching from the Canadian Maritimes to the Gulf of Mexico.
The endowment will sustain in perpetuity coordinated teaching, research and outreach in waterfowl and wetlands ecology and conservation in the heart of the Atlantic Flyway.
“My first duck hunting experience was in the South Carolina Lowcountry and it was life-changing,” Kennedy said. “With this gift, I hope to ensure that future generations have waterfowl and wetlands to enjoy, and that we continue to produce young people with a passion to study and steward these important natural resources for years to come.”
Kennedy, an avid outdoorsman and nature enthusiast, has served on the board of Ducks Unlimited and was president of Wetlands America Trust Inc. In 2008, he established an endowed chair at Mississippi State University focused on wetlands conservation along the Mississippi Flyway. Kennedy’s gift will strengthen collaboration between Clemson University and Mississippi State University to enhance waterfowl and wetlands habitats and address conservation issues.
“Mr. Kennedy’s generous gift will help enable Clemson to continue producing top-notch research in waterfowl and wetlands ecology and will provide undergraduate and graduate students in wildlife and fisheries biology with the experiential learning opportunities they need to become future leaders in waterfowl and wetlands conservation,” said Clemson University President James P. Clements.
The endowment establishes in perpetuity The James C. Kennedy Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation Center, which will be headed by a Clemson professor to be named The James C. Kennedy Waterfowl and Wetlands Center Director. The endowment funds fellowships for Ph.D. and Master of Science graduate students, undergraduate student fellows and multiple undergraduate internships. Funds also will be used to educate landowners and managers through an extensive educational outreach program.
“Mr. Kennedy’s gift means we will have students with a focus on and a passion for waterfowl and wetlands conservation in the field as early as January,” said Greg Yarrow, professor and Natural Resources Division chair at Clemson.
Baruch Institute researchers have studied coastal environments for nearly 40 years on the facility’s 31 square miles of salt marsh, managed wetlands and maritime forest, and Clemson is currently involved in research and conservation efforts of 190,000 acres, including the 128,000-acre Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto River Basin, and the Winyah Bay coastal estuary.
“Mr. Kennedy’s gift is student-centered and will allow Clemson and the Baruch Institute to continue to produce practical research and student experiences that will not only benefit waterfowl and wetlands conservation today, but for generations to come,” said George Askew, vice president of Public Service and Agriculture and interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.
Research shows that wetlands play an integral role in preventing flooding, rejuvenating rivers and surrounding ecosystems, wildlife migration and reproduction and erosion control.
A study released in 2013 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that between 2004 and 2009 coastal wetlands declined by 360,720 acres, or 80,160 acres per year. The decline is 25 percent faster than the previous study period from 1998 to 2004.
Other partners in the effort include the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Nemours Wildlife Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the South Carolina USGS Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.
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