Approved by the GEF Council in December 2022 initially as the "Gustavo Fonseca Youth Conservation Leadership Program," the new innovative program supports the professional development of promising young conservationists from developing countries.

The program, in honor of tropical scientist Gustavo Fonseca, the GEF’s long-serving Director of Programs who passed away in August 2022, will include conservation fellowships, grants for biodiversity field work, awards for participation in international conservation events, and a recurrent global conservation symposium bringing together young environmental leaders.

“This program will focus on youth and their role in the future of environmental governance and stewardship. Young people from developing countries play a critical role in effecting future change and the GEF is strongly committed to supporting their research, studies, professional development, and leadership,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, the GEF’s CEO and Chairperson.


The program has four main components:

1. Youth Conservation Fellowships

The fellowships provide promising young conservationists with support to obtain master's degrees and PhDs in conservation.

2. Youth Grants for Biodiversity Field Action

The grants fund innovative field projects that promote conservation and engage early career professionals.

3. Awards for Youth Leadership Participation in International Conservation Events

The awards fund travel and attendance at international events to gain exposure and experience.

4. Youth Global Conservation Symposium

The program also hosts the Youth Global Conservation Symposium, which brings together young leaders, seasoned professionals, and potential mentors to discuss current topics.

The program is coordinating its activities with several other partners in the field of conservation and education. While the details of the partnerships are being finalized, one organization, the Brazilian NGO FUNBIO has already issued the first call for the expression of interest to participate in the program in Brazil. Potential participants can access the call for proposals here.

Support the next generation of conservation leaders and protect the natural world by joining the program. Check this page for regular postings of calls for applications starting in Summer 2023.

About Gustavo Fonseca

Gustavo Fonseca portrait

Gustavo Fonseca (1956-2022) was a giant in the conservation world. A Brazilian, Gustavo combined formal training with a talent for translating complex environmental problems into practical solutions. In so doing, he elevated the environment to the center of discussions around sustainable development and social equity. As a mentor, professor, and supervisor, he was also known for inspiring, encouraging, and supporting the next generation of conservationists.

For many years, Gustavo was the Director of Programs at the GEF, overseeing investments of combined over $10 billion in environmental projects and programs in developing countries. He shaped international environmental policy through his work at the GEF, with implementing agencies, and in UN negotiations on a range of topics and priorities.

The GEF honors this legacy through the Gustavo Fonseca Youth Conservation Leadership Program, a multifaceted program to develop the capacity of young conservationists in developing countries.