The Trust's advisory board plans to identify and support cutting-edge projects that are of global importance and which may not have received funding from National Geographic research-oriented grant programs.
John Fahey, the president of National Geographic, said the Trust was established because conservation is a key component of the Society's mission in the 21st century. "We are committed to encouraging greater individual responsibility for the planet's threatened resources," Fahey said, adding that the Trust will be an important instrument to help the Society meet its goal of supporting conservation.
Among the grants already given under the new Trust is $30,000 for a project to help protect critically endangered orangutans. Cheryl Knott of Harvard University is leading the effort, which will implement an education program to help enlist the support of local people in protecting the resources of Indonesia's Gunung Palung National Park, one of the world's last protected refuges for wild orangutans. The park is under heavy threat from illegal logging, clearing of forest for farmland, hunting, and fires.
Other Trust grants awarded have included $30,000 for a study on conserving flora and fauna in forest canopies and $14,000 for a project to analyze natural resources and their use on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
Some National Geographic explorers-in-residence have received grants from the Trust for conservation-related projects. Paleontologist Paul Sereno, for example, received funding for a project to conserve unique fossil deposits in northern Niger.
The Trust is supported by contributions from private donors and foundations. The Ford Motor Company was a key initial contributor as part of EarthPulse, a joint campaign with National Geographic to provide information aimed at expanding public awareness of and support for conservation issues.