New Fellowship Innovates to Solve Global Challenges


By Jamey Anderson

Reducing carbon pollution. Protecting vulnerable species. Ensuring food supplies.

The world’s most difficult challenges require its most brilliant minds. That is the belief behind a new multimillion-dollar fellowship launched by the global nonprofit Conservation International (CI) in February in Menlo Park, California.

The Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship, named for founders Dr. Yvonne L.K. Lui and Melani and Rob Walton, brings together world leaders with some of the most innovative minds in conservation. The inaugural class of fellows recognizes 15 experts from 11 countries with diverse backgrounds – from world leaders to first-in-class scientists and conservationists – all dedicated to saving nature and building a healthier, more productive planet.

“Thirty years ago, CI was founded with a commitment to bring new ideas to the world of international conservation,” said CI Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann. “The Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship honors that tradition by linking rising stars in science and technology with seasoned leaders from government and civil society. We are grateful to the leadership of Dr. Yvonne Lui and Melani and Rob Walton for establishing this visionary program.”

The inaugural Fellows class includes Distinguished Fellows Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change; Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former president of Iceland and chairman of the Arctic Circle; and Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati and head of Pacific Rising, an organization dedicated to helping the people of the low-lying Pacific island adapt and thrive in the face of rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Other fellows are recognized experts in building sustainable economies, leveraging finance to preserve nature, supporting environmentally friendly agriculture and stopping wildlife trafficking. Additional candidates are currently being recruited who have expertise in environmental conservation in Hong Kong and China and on protecting tropical forests to combat climate change.

“The environmental challenges that we face in our home countries require both local and global sustainable solutions,” said Lui, founder of the Yvonne L.K. Lui Foundation. “I’m inspired by and proud to support this exceptional group of international Fellows in their efforts to safeguard the future of our planet and look forward to seeing the impact of the Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship in China, and throughout the world.”

“I am very impressed with the depth of leadership and fresh thinking represented in this diverse and talented inaugural class of Fellows,” said Rob Walton, chairman of the board (retired) for Walmart Stores. “I believe unleashing human ingenuity is key to protecting our natural resources and helping create sustainable solutions for our future. Our Fellows Initiative is off to a great start, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”

To learn more about the Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship, visit

Jamey Anderson is a senior writer at the global nonprofit Conservation International. He has spent his career working to protect some of the most spectacular places in the western United States and around the world.

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