Clemson University says it will use a $3.3 million gift from a media and auto executive to establish a waterfowl and wetlands research center along the coast.
The university said Tuesday that Cox Enterprises Chairman James Kennedy had endowed a new conservation center in Georgetown and Beaufort counties. The Kennedy Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation Center will be the only endowed center of its kind on the Atlantic coast, the school said. South Carolina is a winter home for many duck species that migrate from Canada and nest in coastal wetlands.
“What makes South Carolina unique is that we have a lot of these wetlands systems that are, compared to other areas, pretty much intact,” the school’s Natural Resources Division chair Greg Yarrow said. “It allows us to build upon that.”
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study released last year estimated the amount of coastal wetlands nationwide declined by nearly 361,000 acres from 2004 to 2009. The decline is 25 percent faster than the previous study period from 1998 to 2004.
“My first duck hunting experience was in the South Carolina Lowcountry and it was life-changing,” Kennedy said in a statement. “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.”
The endowment will fund fellowships for doctoral and graduate-level students, undergraduate student fellows and other internships. Funds also will be used to educate landowners and managers through an outreach program, the school said.
The center will be located at the existing Baruch Institute for Coastal Ecology and Forest Service in Georgetown County and at the Nemours Wildlife Foundation in Beaufort. Yarrow noted the locations are purposely close to Winyah Bay and the ACE Basin preserve, respectively, two of the largest undeveloped coastal tracts along the Eastern Seaboard.