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Appreciation for nature inspires master's program in conservation

About them

Marilyn and Jay Sarles first traveled together to the American West as young newlyweds. The trip was to prove life-changing: the majesty of the national parks imprinted a respect for nature that they would pass on to their children; vacations always included hiking in the wilderness. Later, it would frame the family's support of organizations protecting fragile ecosystems and the global health of animals and people.

About their gift

Now these values have found fertile ground at Tufts. The Sarleses have made a generous gift of $100,000 that helps establish a Master of Science in Conservation Medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Starting next fall, students from diverse disciplines will explore the links between animal, human, and ecosystem health, and be prepared to bring solutions to problems always complex and often controversial. The Center for Conservation Medicine, as well as the school's expertise in wildlife medicine, international fieldwork, and public health, position Tufts to be a leader in this emerging field.

"We are grateful for a gift that raises our potential to make a difference for humans and animals," said Deborah Kochevar, dean of the Cummings School. "This program promises to attract wide interest from veterinarians, biologists, physicians, and researchers, among others, who are already frontline responders to emerging diseases."

Why Tufts

Jay Sarles said education factors strongly in the philanthropic choices he and his wife make. "Scientific literacy is very important in moving forward conservation medicine," he said. "We're attracted to institutions that get the science right. A partnership with the Cummings School made sense, and we look forward to having a relationship with Tufts."

Marilyn, a Cummings School overseer and physician by training, stressed that the concept of "one health" is also critical to shifting the conservation dialogue. While issues may pit rancher against park ranger, or developer against outdoor enthusiasts, conservation medicine professionals can demonstrate that what wildlife requires for survival is also what promotes human health and well-being. As more professionals bring together the varied elements of conservation medicine, she hopes the controversial issues will become less divided, less politicized. "Definitive research can help set policy," she said. "The organizations we support are pragmatic and focused on building coalitions," she said. "We believe Tufts can help us develop balanced solutions that address the need for human activity, but with a respectful understanding of the environment. From that equilibrium, we can create a sustainable, healthy world."

Find out more about the Master of Science in Conservation Medicine at, and about the Center for Conservation Medicine at