UW Professor Receives Fulbright Award to Study Natural Capital Investment in Australia

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Drew Bennett

Drew Bennett, the Whitney MacMillan Professor of Practice of Private Lands Stewardship in the University of Wyoming’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, has received a U.S. Fulbright Scholarship to conduct natural capital investment research in Australia.

His project, titled “Investing in Natural Capital: Rural Livelihoods and Resource Conservation in Australia and the U.S.,” will compare the approaches each country takes to investing in sustainable land management practices.  

Natural capital refers to the suite of natural resources that provide benefits to people, such as water filtration for cities, forage for livestock and natural pollination for crops. Incentivizing land management that enhances natural capital can not only yield environmental dividends, but also support the livelihoods of private landowners.  

“Australia and the United States have made significant investments to restore ecosystems to enhance natural capital, such as through efforts to thin forests to mitigate against catastrophic wildfires. These investments also hold the potential to support habitat conservation and provide significant economic opportunity through increased jobs for restoration work and economic incentives to landowners for sustainable land management practices,” Bennett says. “However, these investments are in the early stages and have been implemented in distinct ways in the two countries, which provides an ideal situation for shared learning between the two countries.”

Bennett is among 800 U.S. citizens selected by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board to teach, conduct research and/or provide expertise abroad for the 2024-25 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on their academic and professional achievement, as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their respective fields.

Bennett’s project will begin in January 2025 and run through May 2025. The research will be based in Canberra, Australia, and hosted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency. The project will take place in collaboration with CSIRO and will involve research in rural Queensland and other rural regions of Australia. 

“It is an incredible honor to be recognized as a Fulbright Scholar and a tremendous opportunity to build partnerships between the University of Wyoming and world-class researchers in Australia,” Bennett says. “I’m excited for the potential for this award to lead to career-long collaborators and, hopefully, lifelong friendships.”

“Dr. Bennett’s work is truly cutting-edge and, while this is an exceptional honor, it’s no surprise that he has been selected as a Fulbright Scholar in the coming year,” says John Koprowski, dean of the Haub School. “Drew understands the importance of collaborations that engage local communities and landowners in land management, and he continues to provide visionary leadership in this area. What demonstrates the spirit of collaboration more than a Fulbright that highlights and facilitates the importance of working together to share and learn?”

Bennett says his initial inspiration for applying for a Fulbright was “the fantastic team of researchers at CSIRO, and I was excited about the opportunity to further collaborate with the team.”

Bennett says he originally got to know the team remotely by providing external feedback on a portfolio of projects it currently has underway. Through this experience, Bennett learned about the world-class research the team leads and how Australia and the American West face so many similar economic and environmental challenges, including diversifying economic opportunities in rural communities and conserving iconic species of concern.

“Given so many parallels, it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to develop a partnership between the University of Wyoming and CSIRO,” Bennett says. “And we have plans to bring a CSIRO postdoctoral researcher to campus and to visit study areas in Wyoming this fall to further advance this emerging partnership.”

Bennett has been a member of UW’s faculty since 2018. He received his Ph.D. in geography from Oregon State University; his master’s degree in geography from the University of Texas-Austin; and his MBA and bachelor’s degree in environmental science, both from the University of Denver. To learn more about Bennett, go here

About the Fulbright Program

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations around the world provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given more than 400,000 students, scholars, scientists, teachers, artists and professionals of all backgrounds and fields the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research; exchange ideas; and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

For more information on the Fulbright Program, go to www.fulbrightprogram.org

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