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December 28, 2017

Clifton Institute announces new leadership team

Contributed Photo
Eleanor and Bert Harris will serve as managing director and executive director, respectively, of the Clifton Institute, which has a 900-acre wildlife sanctuary north of Warrenton.
The Clifton Institute, a non-profit educational center on a 900-acre wildlife sanctuary north of Warrenton, has hired Bert and Eleanor Harris to serve as executive director and managing director, respectively.

Mr. and Mrs. Harris, who met while conducting research at Princeton University, recently married and live in near Orlean.

Mr. Harris will assume his duties at the Clifton Field Station early in January and Mrs. Harris will join him in July, following postdoctoral work at the University of Maryland.

“We are fortunate that both Bert and Eleanor have extraordinary credentials well suited to the work of the institute,” said Doug Larson, president of the Clifton Institute board. “They each bring experience in conservation, land management, research and education.”

Mr. Harris has a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology. He most recently served as director of biodiversity conservation at Rainforest Trust in Warrenton and has considerable international conservation experience.

Mrs. Harris has a doctorate in quantitative and computational biology.

“Both are passionate natural historians and ecological researchers,” Mr. Larson said. “They look forward to carrying out various research and educational programs at the Institute, as well as enhancing the native biodiversity of the Clifton Field Station.”

The late Murdock Head founded The Clifton Institute in 1985 and it initially focused on health promotion. In 1990, William Sladen transferred his swan research program from a site in Pennsylvania to Airlie and Clifton Farm. Soon thereafter, Dr. Sladen and his wife, Jocelyn Arundel Sladen, moved into the Clifton residence and established Environmental Studies of the Piedmont as a project of the institute.

Since then, the 900-acre farm was placed in a conservation easement and the focus has been on the preservation and promotion of native flora and fauna. Notable among the programs was the experiment to imprint Canada geese on an ultralight aircraft in order to help teach safe migratory routes to various migratory bird species. The project gained considerable attention and was ultimately the basis for the feature film “Fly Away Home.” Dr. Sladen passed away in May, but his work continues.

In 2017, more 1,000 students from Fauquier public and private schools and George Mason University visited Clifton and participated in environmental programs of one sort or another. The programs feature various habitats such as wetlands, meadows and woodlands available at the center. Environmental Studies has also participated in a bird banding program that is part of a national effort to track bird populations around the country.

“The board of the Clifton Institute is excited to see the passion that Bert and Eleanor have for the preservation of this beautiful site and we are all looking forward to an expansion of the programs at the center,” Mr. Larson said.
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