Big Changes and a Path Forward

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Big Changes and a Path Forward

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Dear Friends of EPI,

Normally, you would be receiving an update from me filled with stories about students building connections to science, conservation, and community across the Americas - engaging in hands-on research and protecting vulnerable ecosystems. However, like so many in the global community, EPI is facing uncharted waters due to the outbreak of COVID-19. As an EPI supporter, you are due a candid vision of our current reality, and as a long-time partner, we trust you will be interested in learning how you can help.    

Our reality

The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound impact on EPI’s field-based programming. We were forced to cancel our scheduled spring and summer courses. In total, we may eliminate hundreds of activities, affecting thousands of participants and curtailing much of our anticipated revenue for this year.

To address immediate needs, we secured a $255,000 loan from the SBA’s paycheck protection program (PPP) and an additional $173,000 in funds from generous donors for COVID-relief efforts. Uncertainty about border openings and other health-related directives make it difficult to make concrete predictions, but at this time, we estimate a $2 million loss from the cancellation of our 2020 courses. We also may see significant drops in our 2021 visiting student programs and Pacuare Reserve eco-travel visitor numbers. 

This process has been trying and has required difficult decisions. In order to forge a solid future for EPI, we made a 60% reduction in staff, both temporary and permanent. Many of these staff members have been part of the EPI-family for years. This has resulted in a $1.4 million reduction in planned expenses (58% reduction). These steps, while drastic and painful, have ensured that EPI will survive this crisis, and we’re already re-envisioning our future. This is a daunting task because we have gone, almost overnight, from an organization where two-thirds of our revenue is earned through student tuition, to one that is relying almost entirely on fundraising for immediate cash flow.

Looking forward
At a time like this, it is critical that we make smart, agile decisions to protect the things that we love. So, how does an organization whose mission has been to get students OUTSIDE for 20 years respond and pivot in a way that does not pull us too far from immersive, experiential education? We will achieve this by engaging the passionate minds, innovative thinking, and problem-solving strategies that helped build EPI, and with the support of people like you.

In the meantime
As borders and beaches closed, nature carried on, and leatherback sea turtles have continued to nest at Pacuare Reserve. Without the revenue from student groups and ecotourism, however, we are forced to reduce our nightly censuses and have witnessed an increase in illegal nest harvesting. But, with every milestone, nesting sea turtle, and successfully hatched nest, we find hope. For a sneak peek on hatchery happenings, watch this video.

Additionally, Pacuare Reserve staff, research, and wildlife were recently featured on the National Geographic Wild channel! You can view and share host Nigel Marven’s special message here.

Connecting with our Core
Last month, in celebration of our 20-year anniversary, we launched a far-reaching alumni survey. We received responses from alumni at each of our program sites, some who are still in high school and others who already have careers and families of their own. Our alumni have spread around the globe, but one truth remains; EPI’s programs are transformative and life-changing:

You have played an essential role in building EPI into what it is today, and together we have affected tens of thousands of lives. You have helped us create new ways forward in education, conservation, and connecting youth with this planet’s wild treasures, many within their own homelands. We ask that you help us now as we rebuild momentum and become a more resilient organization.

Here are a few ways you can help

  • Support our staff to work through changes in programming and be ready to rebound through our Caring for our Core Campaign. Learn more and donate here!
  • Become a monthly donor. Join the team of Conservation All Stars and help ensure critical conservation priorities have a lasting impact on youth and our planet into the future. 
  • Protect endangered leatherback sea turtles, ensure healthy oceans and thriving coastal communities through our Every Egg Campaign

A crisis of this scope causes strife and upheaval, but it also binds us together. It makes us long for a brighter future. You are one of our most trusted donors and we are grateful for your continued support and guidance. If you have additional ideas on how to broaden our reach and grow our network, please let me know. 

I hope you and your family are safe and healthy and I appreciate you taking the time to read about our current EPI story, and for considering helping in any way you can. 


Brant Warren
Executive Director

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