Toggle Nav

For Earth Day, Artist Maya Lin’s Multimedia Memorial to the Planet Debuts Conservation Stories

Offers Online Portal for People to Interact with Earth’s Story of Loss, Recovery, and Hope

April 19, 2012, New York, NY – For Earth Day 2012, Maya Lin, designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Civil Rights Memorial, is asking people the world over to share a memory about environmental loss – and, at the same time, learn about what’s being done to stop it. Ms. Lin’s Earth Day appeal is being made in collaboration with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and World Wildlife Fund to draw attention to Conservation in Action, the newest installment of What is Missing?, a global, multimedia artwork that serves as a memorial to our living planet. What is Missing? is launching publicly at Bloomberg on April 20.

“Conservation in Action gives people a place to share what they’ve seen diminish – or disappear – from the natural world and for us to present promising stories about ecological restoration and conservation,” said Maya Lin. “Some people said that a memorial to our living planet was depressing, but I believe that using memories and history to show the abundance of biodiversity the planet once held can spur people to realize their power to connect with work that is under way and take steps in their everyday lives, no matter how small.” 

“The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is proud to collaborate with Maya’s haunting and ambitious What Is Missing? memorial,” said John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Sound and video recordings from the natural world archived in our Macaulay Library and the expertise of our scientists achieve an important new voice through Maya’s elegant blending of vision, passion for the earth, and attention to scientific detail.”

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, World Wildlife Fund and other leading science and conservation organizations have partnered to provide content on projects that are helping resolve threats to the world’s environmental hot spots and wildlife.

Conservation in Action is part of, a science-based site that transports viewers into the heart of the ongoing sixth mass extinction in the planet’s history. The site is the nexus of the What is Missing? memorial.

The website presents more than 600 historical accounts of natural abundance, hundreds of personal memories, 400+ citations highlighting conservation successes and disasters in history, and conservation stories from a global network of participating organizations.

“In saving the world’s wildlife, there is a sense of urgency, but also of hope, and ‘What is Missing?’ perfectly captures both,” said Colby Loucks, director of World Wildlife Fund’s conservation science program. “Whether it’s tracking jaguars in the Amazon, protecting ‘America’s Fish Basket’ in Bristol Bay, saving the last 50 Javan rhinos in Indonesia, or protecting marine turtles in Kenya, WWF and its partners are seeing hopeful signs for the future of nature.”

Conceived as Ms. Lin’s last memorial, What is Missing? grew out of her commitment and concern for the environment and longstanding desire to not only raise awareness about species and habitat loss and degradation, but also to give hope for what can be – and is being – done to help.

What is Missing? includes the website as well as a permanent installation for the California Academy of Sciences, travelling exhibits in New York, Beijing, and Copenhagen, and future installations for Cornell, the Field Museum in Chicago, and IUCN.

# # #

About What is Missing?

The What is Missing? Foundation was established in 2003 by Maya Lin to fund her fifth and last memorial project. What is Missing? is a wholly collaborative project, created by Maya Lin and Maya Lin Studio with contributions from scientific institutions, environmental groups, writers, art institutions, filmmakers, photographers, and artists. Core media contributors include Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Geographic Society, ARKive, and BBC Earth.

The Foundation has produced more than 70 one-to-two-minute videos that are being shown at the permanent and travelling exhibits and made available on the website and Vimeo (courtesy of film and sounds from Cornell, National Geographic Society, the BBC and ARKive ).

About the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Founded in 1915, the Lab is a nonprofit organization supported by 45,000 members, with an online community that includes 200,000 citizen-science participants and 5 million bird enthusiasts who connect online at As a proud unit of Cornell University, the Lab has 10 faculty on staff, as well as a team of conservation scientists and a strong history of scientific excellence and technological innovation. Learn more at  

Other Participants in Conservation in Action

IUCN, NRDC, Oceana, Panthera, Wildlife Conservation Society, California Academy of Sciences, The Field Museum, Conservation International, Audubon, Bird Life International, Greenpeace, The Monterey Bay Aquarium, RARE, WildAID, Woodshole Oceanographic Institution

Australian Koala Foundation, Bat Conservation International, Bonobo Conservation Initiative, Defenders of Wildlife, Freedom to Roam, Hoh River Trust, International Rhino Foundation, Living With Lions, Ocean Alliance, Programa de conservacion Ex-situ del Lince Iberico Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Shark Savers, Snow Leopard Trust, Wild Camel Protection Foundation, Xerces Society