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Saving Diamondback Terrapins – An Interview with Russell Burke, Part 2

We sat down with Russell Burke, Project Manager for Saving Diamondback Turtles, a project currently live on iAMscientist. Below is Part 1 of our interview.

Knowledge Exchange: What other sources of funding including crowdfunding did you investigate to execute this project?

Russell Burke: This is the first crowdfunding attempt I’ve ever made. I did try to fund this same project through a series of more traditional sources. I got good reviews but never quite good enough. I think it has been hard to convince funding agencies they should help out with a project at this level—collecting the baseline information needed for a bigger project is just not as sexy as plugging into that next level project.

KX: Once you settled on crowdfunding, what were the steps you took in order to ensure that you were successful? (email to family, friends and colleagues; Facebook updates)

RB: I emailed news of the IAMscientist project to a long list of my friends, my family, and my former students. I posted it on my FB page, the relevant FB groups I belong to, and I asked people to pass it on. I do a lot of public talks to non-profit nature groups—I contacted each of those and asked them to distribute it to them members.

KX: Who contributed? (people interested in turtles, the environment and conservation; several .orgs focused on turtles [Littorai, Turtle Conservation) found me through my outreach efforts and the efforts by iAMscientist; support from suppliers)

RB: I know some but certainly not all of the people who have donated. Big donations came from my mother (thanks mom), the American Littoral Society, the Turtle Conservation project, the South Shore Audubon Society, friends from a local Buddhist temple, and friends from a Bodhisattva Yoga school. I know these folks a variety of ways: for example, the ALS folks are stationed at Jamaica Bay and know my work really well, I just did a compassionate release with the Buddhist temple using hatchling terrapins, and my friends from yoga school have volunteered helping on the terrapin project. More of the overall total came from folks that individually donated smaller amounts. Some of these are former students who apparently remember me fondly, others are volunteers who help with the terrapin field work.

KX: How has Hofstra University been involved in this project?

RB: Our grants office is very supportive and they are glad to see our projects get funded. People there have been curious to see how this would work, and I expect they will want a full report on it. My colleagues in the department have also asked me about it and are maybe considering trying it themselves.

KX: Any ‘words of wisdom’ for fellow researchers considering crowdfunding?

RB: This whole process has been entertaining and enjoyable. I think it is important to keep the target low and achievable, plus I suspect it is really important to present the project in a very appealing way.

About Russell Burke:
Russell Burke is an Associate Professor at Hofstra University. His work centers around the interface between the applied field of conservation biology and the typically non-applied fields of ecology and evolution. A large part of his work is old style natural history, figuring out what animals and plants do in their natural environment. Then he uses these findings as a basis for suggesting management actions for conservation, or for testing ecological theory.


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