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Generous $2 million gift shows how highly Cary Institute is valued

The Millerton News Editorial

Set quietly amid the affluent community of Millbrook, you might be surprised to find one of the world’s most elite ecological scientific research centers. It focuses on some of the most critical environmental issues of our day — delving into such subjects as disease ecology and urban ecology — especially relevant as society is currently battling a global pandemic. It’s the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

The Cary Institute is an outgrowth the late Mary Flagler Cary’s passion for the natural world.

Cary passed away in 1967, leaving her vast estate (and the forested land where the Cary is now located) to a charitable trust with the directive for it to continue to focus on the conservation and preservation of natural resources.

Her trustees began a relationship with the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), and in 1971 they asked the NYBG to oversee her property. At that time it was called the Mary Flagler Cary Arboretum.

In 1983, Gene Likens, a pioneer in long-term multidisciplinary ecological studies who was affiliated with the NYBG, was approached. He helped found the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook as part of the New York Botanical Garden. It became an independent nonprofit center for ecological research with Likens as its director and president.

As it so succinctly states on its website, www.caryinstitute.org, “Since 1983, our scientists have been investigating the complex interactions that govern the natural world and the impacts of climate change on these systems. Our findings lead to more effective management and policy actions and increased environmental literacy. Staff are global experts in the ecology of: cities, disease, forests and freshwater.”

The Cary Institute has drawn much support throughout the years, locally and from farther afield, including Zibby and Jim Tozer of New York City and Millbrook.

Just last week, the husband-and-wife team announced their plans to donate $2 million to the institute. The money will help the Cary complete its renovations of its Millbrook headquarters and ready it for the 21st century.

The Tozers are longtime supporters of the Cary Institute and its important work.

Zibby served on the Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2013; was chair of the Development and Trusteeship Committee; was chair of the Aldo Leopold Society; and initiated a program among trustees, donors and Cary scientists.

Jim is on the President’s Advisory Council.

Their daughter, Farran Tozer Brown, is a current trustee.

In recognition of the Tozers’ ongoing support and generosity, the Cary Institute will name the redone space the Tozer Ecosystem Science Building, and plan to celebrate with an open house on Friday, April 8.

It’s no wonder why the Tozers have been so supportive of the Cary Institute for so long. Its research has led to vital discoveries in how to treat debilitating chronic illnesses, including tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, which has devastated regions like the Hudson Valley.

New York has the third highest number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falling behind only Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The CDC further states on its website, between 2000 and 2018 within the Empire State, Dutchess County had the highest number of confirmed cases of the disease at 11,519; Columbia County had the second highest number of confirmed cases in the state with 7,017; and Greene County had the ninth highest number of confirmed cases.

Cary researchers and scientists also tackle global challenges as seemingly insurmountable as climate change, doing extensive work in that area.

They have also done research into the current COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Barbara Han, a disease ecologist at the Cary, worked on a project to predict the likelihood that different species can harbour Sars-CoV-2, and transmit it between them.

Through her analysis, “Han and her colleagues identified a number of creatures that appear to be particularly susceptible to becoming infected with Sars-CoV-2 and then transmitting it,” explained the Cary website.

Her work is among that being contributed by scientists worldwide, in an around-the-clock effort to save lives and stop the current pandemic. If successful, it could help end the health crisis and bring about an eventual return to normal.

This is just a small sampling of what it is that goes on at the Cary Institute, tucked away quietly off Sharon Turnpike in Millbrook.

It’s a beautiful 2,000-acre campus that can actually be hiked between April 1 and Oct. 31. The trails are open to the public between sunrise and sunset, with the internal roadway gates open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Cary’s hiking trails are immersive and range from old fields and upland forests to wetlands. They’re perfect for peaceful nature walks or just to enjoy the soothing sounds of bird song.

Clearly we think the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies is an incredible asset for the residents of the Hudson Valley (and for those who come to visit, as many do), but think about how fortunate we are to have a world-class scientific research facility in our midst. It’s really an amazing resource.

It’s also wonderful that fact is not lost on those who can afford to support the Cary Institute, its work, its staff and its facilities, like the Tozers. Their generosity should not go unmentioned, as it could help lead to an unknown discovery that could one day help millions, perhaps even you, one of our readers, perusing this very editorial.

We certainly want to thank the Tozers for supporting such an important local resource like the Cary Institute, which we hope will be able to continue its good works for many years to come.

To learn more about the Cary Institute, go to www.caryinstitute.org or call 845-677-5343.

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