DEL-MEM Community and Coursework Help Joyce Wang Make a Greater Impact in Conservation

August 1, 2018

Tim Lucas, (919) 613-8084,

Joyce_Kenya_Grevys Zebra.jpg
Joyce in Kenya with WCN.(Credit: Joyce Wang)


By Parker Brown, Communications Specialist

DURHAM, N.C. — Joyce Wang (DEL-MEM ’19) was recently promoted to director of conservation programs for the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN).

Wang is responsible for executing the growth strategy of WCN’s conservation and partner network. She also works closely with WCN’s corporate partners to develop and execute meaningful and impactful cause marketing initiatives that benefit wildlife and the bottom line.

Duke Environment corresponded with Wang recently to talk about her new role, why she chose the DEL-MEM program, how it continues to benefit her professionally, and more.

1. As director of conservation programs, what new responsibilities will you take on and what's one thing you hope to achieve in the short and long term?

As part of my new role, I oversee the growth of our network of field conservation programs. WCN works as an incubator and venture capital firm for start-up wildlife efforts -- with a current portfolio of 17 independent field-based programs to whom we provide deep levels of financial and technical support. We are looking to grow our investment footprint significantly, expanding our programs taxonomically and geographically. I will be developing our expansion strategy, identifying and vetting new organizations in which we would invest – all while making sure that WCN maintains a deep and meaningful connection with our programs and donors.

I will also continue working actively with WCN’s corporate partners, including developing meaningful cause marketing and corporate philanthropy opportunities. The NGO and philanthropic sectors can only accomplish so much – and we want to join hands with profit-driven companies to aim for the “triple bottom line” that achieves social, financial, and environmental goals. This is a deep professional and academic interest of mine -- effective cause marketing partnerships with the private sector are the focus of my Capstone Project (advised by Rebecca Vidra). I believe firmly in the opportunity and obligation of corporations to do good -- and that it's 100% possible to benefit a company's bottom line while making a large, meaningful and positive impact on the planet and for people.

2. What brought you to the DEL-MEM program as a mid-career professional, and how have you grown as a leader and environmental professional since you first came to Duke?

Working in wildlife conservation is one sliver of what it means to care about the environment. I recognized the professional and intellectual limitations of not understanding the broader strategies and approaches to environmental efforts, and came to the Duke community with one question: What are other smart, talented, and passionate people doing with their careers to save the world? My top objective in joining the DEL-MEM program was to develop an interdisciplinary network and approach to environmentalism. The '18 and '19 DEL-MEM cohorts are filled with incredible professionals working on clean energy, impact investing, water security, supply chain sustainability, hazardous substance remediation, sustainable agriculture, and much more – providing a valuable window into the various sectors working simultaneously alongside wildlife and habitat conservation efforts.

It's hard to overstate the value of having the varied, broad, and experienced feedback to my professional efforts provided by DEL-MEM colleagues. The intellectual and professional camaraderie, support, and networking that I have received in the last year has helped me develop into a more strategic thinker that is less myopically focused on localized wildlife issues. I have a more integrated and interdisciplinary point of view that takes into account the theory of change in various sectors and the opportunities to better human communities around the globe that are dependent on our shared environment.

3. What conservation success story are you most proud to have been a part of and why?

Wildlife conservation is a long game.  It's not very often that we can claim big wins in this industry, such as a species recovering from the brink of extinction. However, WCN has been an integral part of many incremental victories for the critters, including: seeing the price of raw ivory in China drop by half after aggressive demand reduction campaigns funded through our Elephant Crisis Fund; this will have tremendous benefits for African elephant populations that are relentlessly poached for the ivory trade.  Another recent success was the designation of Blue Patagonia, a new marine protected area the size of Maryland, spearheaded by the efforts of Global Penguin Society, our first avian investment;  a massive area of this size benefits not only penguins, but thousands of species of mammals, fish, birds, and plants.  Finally, as an example of successful cross-sector achievements, we have been working with Tiffany & Co. on the promotion of their Save The Wild line which has generated significant financial support to fund the most strategic conservation interventions via WCN's Crisis and Recovery Funds to save species across their entire range.

We celebrate every success in the field, from securing veterinary services in northern Kenya to keeping cotton-top tamarins out of the illegal pet trade through hands-on environmental education in Colombian primary schools. Every victory for wildlife matters, no matter how big or small -- and I have seen firsthand how the actions of an individual person can make a difference.

4. If you had the power and resources to implement any program you wanted, what would it be and why?

I would love to develop a program focused on climate change adaptation -- both on a species and landscape level. Significant climate-driven changes to our planet, waters, and all ecosystems are well on their way -- and while we have a responsibility to mitigate these threats as much as possible, we should also begin to prepare the conservation community to address resiliency issues. In other words, how can we help wildlife and human communities to cope with their inevitable changing environments?  In these new, warmer ecosystems, some species and landscapes will win and some will lose. We are already beginning to see some marine species adapt their feeding and reproductive behaviors according to climate-driven changes, and it is these species that will ultimately survive and thrive. 

As conservationists, I believe we have a responsibility to protect and maintain biodiversity while working realistically within the geopolitical and environmental constraints now upon us. We would be remiss not to develop strategies to help species, biomes, and human communities to best withstand the changing times.