The Clifton Institute Inc

For Ecology, Education, and the Environment

aka The Clifton Institute   |   Warrenton, VA   |  www.cliftoninstitute.org

Mission

The mission of the Clifton Institute is to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards, to learn about the ecology of the northern Virginia Piedmont, and to conserve native biodiversity.

Ruling year info

1985

Executive Director

Dr Bert Harris

Managing Director

Dr. Eleanor Harris

Main address

6712 Blantyre Rd

Warrenton, VA 20187 USA

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EIN

52-1413042

NTEE code info

Youth Development Programs (O50)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Biological & Life Sciences (U50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Our region is facing a number of environmental challenges. Habitat loss is causing declines in many species of plants and animals. Invasive species are degrading the quality of what habitat remains. And climate change will affect every ecosystem on the planet in ways that we are just starting to understand. We believe that plants and animals have intrinsic value and that every ecosystem is worth protecting for its own sake. We also know that people rely on the environment for many ecosystem services and that people benefit physically, psychologically, and intellectually when they escape to natural landscapes from our increasingly developed neighborhoods. If we are to address these challenges, we need young people to be able to use science to come up with solutions and to care enough about the environment to do so.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Environmental education

We provide environmental education to people of all ages, from pre-K students to septuagenarians. Our programs, which include field trips, natural history lectures, and guided tours, foster scientific proficiency and critical thinking. They also encourage a sense of curiosity and wonder in nature. Participants in our programs are encouraged to be physically active, intellectually engaged, and mindfully observant, improving both their physical and mental health. After experiencing the beauty of the northern Piedmont ecosystem, our visitors are inspired to take better care of the natural world, both locally and globally.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Adults

Our mission is to conserve all species of native plants and animals that are found on the field station, especially those whose populations are in decline. In 2019 we started a major project to restore 110 acres of what has been used as a cattle pasture to a native grassland. Many of our habitats are threatened by invasion by exotic species of plants. Some of the biggest culprits are Autumn Olive, Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Tree-of-Heaven. To counteract this problem, we are removing exotic plants from our fields and forests in an effort to create higher quality native habitat.

Population(s) Served
Adults

In our research at the Clifton Institute, our goals are to increase our knowledge of the ecology of the field station, to understand how native plants and animals are affected by restoration, and to determine how to conserve species that are rare or declining.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of pre-K-12 students attending environtal education programs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

In 2020, 631 pre-K-12 students attended 31 school programs, 23 free family hikes, and 4 weeks of summer camp.

Number of adults attending public programs about nature and conservation

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults

Type of Metric

Outcome - describing the effects on people or issues

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

In 2020 683 adults attended 58 public programs about nature and conservation.

Number of species documented

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults

Type of Metric

Context - describing the issue we work on

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

We use iNaturalist to document all the native plants and animals that live on our property.

Number of volunteers

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

In 2020, 143 volunteers contributed 2,186 hours. This can be valued at $59,459.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our first goal is to inspire a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature. Our second goal is to restore and maintain high quality habitats for native plants and animals on our property and to communicate best land management practices to other landowners so that the quality of the habitats in our whole area can improve. Our third goal is to study the ecology of the northern Virginia Piedmont so that we can better appreciate the amazing native plants and animals that live here and we can better understand the threats that face them.

We provide several types of environmental education programs: We offer half-day field trips for classes from local schools, homeschooling groups, and other local organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Fauquier and the Windy Hill Foundation. We offer two monthly series of programs for pre-K-12 students at no charge to the students. On the second Saturday of every month, we hold YHikes! (youth nature hikes) for children ages 6-12. During YHikes!, we take the children and their parents for a hike around the field station. During each Piedmont Polliwogs, we read the kids a story involving nature and animals. Then we take them on a short hike and conclude with a craft they can take home with them. On one weekday morning every month, we offer Piedmont Polliwogs for children ages 2-5. We hold four week-long summer camps each year. And we offer education programs for the general public about topics in natural history, ecology, and conservation.

Our field trips and monthly series have different structures and target audiences, but they have one thing in common: during every program, we take the students on a hike around the field station. It may not sound like much, but a guided nature hike is a powerful tool for effective environmental education. First, a hike is the best way to promote curiosity and scientific thinking. Second, a hike is the best way to encourage our students to become environmental stewards. All of our programs are designed to teach our students about the natural history, ecology, and evolution of native plants and animals; to inspire curiosity, wonder, and compassion for nature; to promote healthy minds through mindful observations in nature; to promote healthy bodies through physical activity; and to foster scientific and critical thinking skills.

Our focus in our habitat restoration projects is to conserve declining species of native plants and animals. Across North America, grassland birds are declining faster than birds that live in any other habitat. And 26% of the birds listed as Tier 1 (Species of Greatest Conservation Need) by the VA State Wildlife Plan are early successional species. We are therefore focusing on restoring and maintaining grasslands and shrublands on our property, as well as helping other landowners do the same. In 2019, 2019 we started a major project to restore 110 acres of what has been used as a cattle pasture to a native grassland. The first step in establishing a native grassland is getting rid of the nonnative plant species; we will do this by using herbicides and repeated discing (an organic alternative similar to plowing). Once native plants are established, we will maintain the grassland by mowing or prescribed burning. We will test seven combinations of establishment and management methods in order to figure out how best to help declining native species. Our findings will be used to guide our future restoration projects and educate local landowners.

In 2018 our board made a significant investment in our staff: we increased from one full-time and two part-time staff to four full-time staff. Thanks to this investment, we have significantly expanded our work in the last three years. We have a proven record of providing high-quality environmental education programs, carrying out major restoration projects, and conducting meaningful scientific research projects. We are excited to continue to grow in the coming years.

Our organization has grown significantly in the last few years. In 2019, we reached almost twice as many people as in 2018 and over four times as many as in 2017. 1,587 children attended 41 field trips or off-site programs, 20 free monthly YHikes! and Piedmont Polliwogs, and 4 weeks of summer camp. 603 adults attended 52 public programs about nature and conservation. 9 high school interns and 12 college interns learned what it's like to work at an environmental field station and contributed to research projects.

In 2019, we started a major grassland restoration experiment. We are working to restore 110 acres of a former cattle pasture that is dominated by fescue to a native grassland to benefit native species. We also cleared 30 acres of Autumn Olive saplings in our shrublands, burned 8.5 acres of shrublands to promote native species, and planted 850 native grass and wildflower seedlings in degraded fields. We collected seeds from 38 grassland plant species, which we are rearing in our greenhouse. We will use the seedlings to establish backup populations of rare Piedmont prairie plants and distribute local ecotype plants to landowners.

Landowners in our region need to know how native biodiversity responds to different habitat management techniques. We are collecting data to answer these questions. For example, in 2019, we studied the condition of our pasture before we started the restoration experiment. Last summer, one intern and five volunteers helped us collect plant data from 70 points in the pasture, insect samples from 68 points in the pasture, and soil samples from 140 points in the pasture, as well as from four native grassland remnants. We found that pastures that are dominated by exotic grasses have clearly different microbial communities than native grasslands (see the graph to the right). Having high-quality baseline data will allow us to quantify how conditions improve as our restoration project progresses. We expect to see increases in the diversity of native insects and plants and healthier soils as the experiment progresses.

Financials

The Clifton Institute Inc
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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The Clifton Institute Inc

Board of directors
as of 6/15/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Douglas Larson


Board co-chair

Robert Karch

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 06/15/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

No data

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

 

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data