WE are barreling into the Anthropocene, the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet. A recent study published in the journal Science concluded that the world’s species are disappearing as much as 1,000 times faster than the rate at which species naturally go extinct. It’s a one-two punch — on top of the ecosystems we’ve broken, extreme weather from a changing climate causes even more damage. By 2100, researchers say, one-third to one-half of all Earth’s species could be wiped out.
As a result, efforts to protect species are ramping up as governments, scientists and nonprofit organizations try to build a modern version of Noah’s Ark. The new ark certainly won’t come in the form of a large boat, or even always a place set aside. Instead it is a patchwork quilt of approaches, including assisted migration, seed banks and new preserves and travel corridors based on where species are likely to migrate as seas rise or food sources die out.
The questions are complex. What species do you save? The ones most at risk? Charismatic animals, such as lions or bears or elephants? The ones most likely to survive? The species that hold the most value for us?
One initiative, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services formed in 2012 by the governments of 121 countries, aims to protect and restore species in wild areas and to protect species like bees that carry out valuable ecosystem service functions in the places people live. Some three-quarters of the world’s food production depends primarily on bees.
“We still know very little about what could or should be included in the ark and where,” said Walter Jetz, an ecologist at Yale involved with the project. Species are being wiped out even before we know what they are.
About the author: James Dale is a PhD candidate in Geosciences at Virginia Tech. Check out his profile on the VTSuN student page. Environmental research is often oriented around environmental stewardship: the protection of natural resources is important for as long … Continue reading →
Here is a story about the saturation of the academic job market and the bottleneck at the postdoc stage. The story is about biomedicine, but the same applies to most biological fields. Depressing statistics, but important reality.
A special supplement to this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is dedicated to science communication. Please see the complete Table of Contentsfor a free listing of the new articles!
We are very proud to announce recent accomplishments of Colin Richards, Katherine Phetxumphou, and Siddhartha Roy at the recently concluded VA AWWA WaterJAM 2014 in Hampton, VA. Colin, along with his team (Gary Hinds, Nandita … Continue reading →
We need about 125 litres of water to grow an apple, and about 80 litres for an orange. A glass of apple juice: 230 litres. A glass of orange juice: 200 litres. See? When done right, … Continue reading →
As is true with most students I have known, I have long struggled to define myself and where I can best contribute something positive to the world while also deriving a sense of personal satisfaction. Honestly, I still struggle with the question, “what is your area of expertise?” Because my B.S. is in Biology- does that make me a biologist? My Ph.D. is in Environmental Science, but earned from a Civil & Environmental Engineering department and now I am a professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering. I understand the need for humans to organize, label, and classify information to make sense of the world- I certainly do this all the time myself. At the same time, I can’t help but relate to the concept of the square peg trying to fit in the round hole.
But then, the world changed- or did it? Whether it is the world that has changed, or our perception of it, suddenly the need for square pegs seems to have become abundantly clear! What are some of the major challenges in the world today? Global climate change! Up to 25% obesity rates in the U.S.! New designs for our infrastructure to secure a sustainable future in water and energy! Rapidly moving technological development in nanotechnology, molecular biology, and human medicine! None of these challenges can be met within the confines of one single academic department, rather, they can only be addressed through an interdisciplinary framework.
I am very fortunate to count myself among the faculty at Virginia Tech, a true pioneer in interdisciplinary education and research. As the new Associate Dean and Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Education, have I finally found my calling and come to roost in my own personal square hole? I think so- but in any case, what will be motivating me from this point forward is to help reveal the holes of all dimensions to maximize the talent and satisfaction of our graduate students, while also addressing the world’s greatest needs.
LISA (Virginia Tech’s Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis) provides research infrastructure for Virginia Tech by collaborating with faculty, staff, and students to use statistics to answer research questions. LISA statisticians can help you or your grad students apply statistics to advance your research in Global Change.