The Rhode Island Natural History Survey was incorporated in May of 1994, but by that point an advisory board had been working on the idea for more than a year. In late 1992, a committee largely of URI natural scientists began planning a conference on recent advances in the ecology of Rhode Island. The conference, entitled “What Do We Know About Rhode Island’s Ecological Resources?” was held April 2, 1993, at Roger Williams Park, in Providence. The communication and learning that this event engendered were so salutary that the organizing committee decided to create a permanent institution to arrange more and different means for fostering the interchange of knowledge among naturalists interested in Rhode Island. The movement in Rhode Island paralleled one in the national scene: a National Biological Survey and a national Consortium of State Biological Surveys were both created in 1993.

RINHS’s first success (besides its own birth) was a substantial grant from the Lamb Foundation to commence the publication of the Biota of Rhode Island series. This allowed Lisa Gould be begin work as the Survey’s first Executive Director. Although she was paid from funds for the production of books, of course she did many, many more things. She worked out of a shared office in the URI Cooperative Extension Education Center. The first volume of the Biota, The Vascular Flora of Rhode Island, was published in 1998. Three more volumes in the series have been published since then, as well as other books, pamphlets, and educational media.