Celebrating 20 Years of Conservation

The Acopian Center for Conservation Learning Opened in September 2002

Posted on September 22, 2022 in Science

Acopian Center View from Trainee Residence

This year Hawk Mountain Sanctuary celebrates the 20th anniversary of the opening of its Acopian Center for Conservation Learning, a three-building campus and scientific headquarters that opened in September 2002.

“The Acopian Center was a game changer for us, and it helped a local nonprofit launch a sustained international impact in global raptor conservation,” says Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science Dr. Laurie Goodrich.

The Acopian Center is named for its benefactor, the late Mr. Sarkis Acopian, the single largest donor in Hawk Mountain history and the person who provided the funds to purchase the land, construct the buildings, equip a world-class facility, and establish a maintenance endowment to ensure its continued upkeep. The facility is named in honor of Mr. Acopian and the Acopian family.

The facility provided tremendous infrastructure that allows Hawk Mountain to serve as a hub for information sharing and brainstorming, training, and launching new projects to better conserve raptors, locally to globally. In addition to its generous office and meeting space, the central building houses the Julian Hill Library and Archives, which contains more than 1,500 volumes and periodicals, one of the largest collections of raptor literature in the world. Combined, the scientist and trainee residences have 16 beds in private or shared rooms with communal living and kitchen space. This helps the Sanctuary house trainees and visiting scientists and provides space to host meetings and classes. All three buildings are ADA accessible, and they boast an inspirational view of the ridge that is buffered by 60 acres of protected grasslands with mixed forest. 

The Acopian Center was designed to increase Hawk Mountain’s leadership role in global raptor conservation, and specifically to expand its international training program. The facility allowed the addition of summer field experience positions for North American undergraduates, academic internships for undergraduate college and high school students, and shorter stays for young professionals. In 2001, the team launched a Graduate Student Program to mentor and advance post-docs and Ph.D. candidates conducting independent research, which in turn furthers our knowledge of raptors and their conservation needs. In the last two years alone, the Sanctuary has helped to advance 11 doctoral and five master’s students from eight countries. More than half are former Hawk Mountain trainees.

Hawk Mountain’s unique mix of scientific monitoring, education, and connecting visitors with the migration provides the perfect setting to train up and coming conservationists as it is a proven and cost-effective model that has been replicated globally through the Sanctuary’s training program. Every hawk watch site in the world can trace its roots back to Hawk Mountain, and Sanctuary trainees today are directly responsible for launching raptor conservation and monitoring sites at nine locations globally and dozens across North America. 

“The Acopian Center is a special place where we get to meet, mentor, and later partner with incredible young minds and then watch their plans to conserve raptors become reality. It’s all thanks to this facility, which provides a foundation to build a better future for raptors worldwide,” say Dr. Goodrich.