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The Xerces Society's Response to COVID-19

By Scott Hoffman Black on 16. March 2020
Scott Hoffman Black

The science is clear: We all need to take immediate, bold action to ensure that we are doing our part to slow the spread of this virus and minimize impacts. Here are some of the steps Xerces is taking.

Over the last several weeks, the Xerces Society has been monitoring the spread of coronavirus. The health and well-being of our staff, volunteers, partners, members, and donors are of paramount importance during this difficult time. To protect the Xerces family and to do our part to help limit the spread of COVID-19, we are making changes to reduce travel, avoid large gatherings, and practice social distancing. As an organization that uses science to guide our conservation work, we have focused on understanding the science of this virus to help inform our decisions. The science is clear: We all need to take immediate, bold action to ensure that we are doing our part to slow the spread of this virus and minimize impacts. Below are some of the steps Xerces is taking.


Canceling All Meetings, Workshops, and Short Courses

Outreach and education is a very important part of our work. In the last decade, we have been face-to-face with over 140,000 people—inspiring and engaging them to take action for invertebrates. However, with all due caution we are canceling in-person presentations, workshops, short courses, conferences, and other events. When possible, we will arrange to use technology such as video conferencing to lead or participate in as many events as we can, and continue to reach people with our invertebrate conservation message. We will continue to assess the situation and hope to reschedule canceled events.


Implementing a Work-at-Home Policy

Xerces staff will be working from home in an effort to practice social distancing, which scientists believe will slow the spread of the virus and give our health care system the best chance of handling the influx of new patients. We are ensuring that they have the tools and technology to keep doing their important work while our offices are closed. We are also ensuring that our phone systems and email are set up so that we can continue to communicate with all of our donors and partners.


Taking Care of Our Employees

With schools closed—as well as the potential for staff or their loved ones to become ill—we are ensuring that we support employees through this period and beyond. Xerces has very generous time-off policies and all staff receive health care coverage. We are working to ensure that if staff become ill or cannot work because they need to care for loved ones, we are there to provide extra support. Our staff work tirelessly every day to make the world a better place and it is only right that we give back.


Continuing Our Important Mission

Although we are canceling in-person educational events, there is still much we can and must do to continue our efforts to protect, restore, and enhance habitat for bees, butterflies, freshwater mussels, snails, beetles, and all the other small animals that help run the world. We will continue with our applied research, membership services, communications, outreach and education, advocacy and policy work, and on-the-ground conservation. We will continue to work with our science partners, provide technical assistance to farmers, land managers and others, and focus on policies and advocacy for the animals that need it most. We will also look for novel ways to reach people to continue our important work.


What We Can Do Together

Although we had a couple of inches of snow last weekend, I am already planning my next steps to improve habitat in my yard over the next few weeks. I will be planting nectar plants for bees and butterflies and appropriate host plants for butterflies. Staying home as part of the virus response can be a time to focus on habitat around your home, in the local park, or on your farm. We are here to help. Xerces has a plethora of resources on our website and our staff are working and available to provide advice via email or phone.

We also have community science activities through Bumble Bee Watch and Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper. Getting out in nature and at the same time helping us get valuable information for our conservation efforts can help all of us cope. For me, time outside also gives me some normalcy and hope as we work through this trying time.

I will also focus on making sure my loved ones, friends, staff, and neighbors remain safe and healthy.  I think that this is a time where we can all come together to help each other. As we all apply social distancing, I encourage everyone connect even briefly with co-workers, family, neighbors, friends, and communities, both for our own mental health and to do our part to keep the world knitted together.

During these troubling times, please know our thoughts go out to everyone. Thank you for your continued support and please take all precautions to stay safe and healthy.

Scott Black

Executive Director


Scott Black is an internationally renowned conservationist who has been at the forefront of the conservation movement for three decades. Scott’s work has led to protection and restoration of habitat on millions of acres of rangelands, forests, and farmland as well as protection for many endangered species. He is an author of the best-selling Attracting Native Pollinators and Gardening for Butterflies and has written more than two hundred other publications including a recent chapter on climate change and insects. Scott serves on the science advisory committee of Nature-Based Climate Solutions, which brings together stakeholders to accelerate the implementation of carbon removal strategies that simultaneously improve the social, economic, and environmental resilience of local communities.

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