- All Events
- Spotlighted Topics
- About Us
“When voters in Montana ask me why we should save the spotted owl, what should I tell them?”
This was the question posed to renowned biologist Ed Wilson during an early-1990s visit to the office of Montana senator Max Baucus. Wilson, unfazed, shot back, “Tell them, senator, about the rosy periwinkle, a small plant discovered in Madagascar that provided successful treatment for Hodgkin’s disease and acute lymphomatic leukemia. Tell them about the obscure Norwegian fungus that yielded cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant now used every day in organ transplants. And ask them how many species of fungi exist in the old stand forests of the Pacific Northwest that we haven’t even classified yet, much less learned the benefits of.”
Medical advances comprise just one of the many reasons for preserving and studying biodiversity, the quantity and variety of all living organisms. From the tiniest bacteria to elephants to humans, all biodiversity is interconnected in a complex yet fragile network of relationships. The tiniest perturbation to this network can cause its wholesale collapse, which is why we must be responsible and informed citizens of our environment.
Aside from the medical benefits mentioned by Wilson, there’s dollars and cents—40% of the global economy is based on biological products and processes. Think about the food on your dinner table; the paper you are writing on; those herbal extracts in your shampoo. Think even more simply—the very air you breathe is recycled and emitted by trees, which in turn absorb the carbon dioxide you exhale. Indeed, our ability to persist and function as a society is entirely dependent on the biodiversity of our planet.
Despite our shrinking world, biodiversity remains a frontier of new discovery. Of a possible 5-30 million species on the planet, only 1.8 are named and described. Who knows what medical cures and new technologies exist in the remaining millions? With more than 12 million specimens deposited in its natural history museums, the University of California, Berkeley dedicates much time and resources to the study of past and present biodiversity, in order to inform our understanding.
Wilson said it best in his book The Diversity of Life, when he implored us to “cherish each species in turn as a world unto itself, worthy of lifetimes of study.” Below are stories relating to biodiversity and conservation.
The next Science@Cal Lecture will be given at 11 AM on November 17th in Genetics and Plant Biology, Room 100. See the Science@Cal Lectures page for details.
On June 16, our talk was given by Anand Varma, and was entitled "Water and Ash: A Photographic Exploration of Patagonia's Wetlands and Volcanoes".
Northern Patagonia has the strongest rainfall gradient in the world, transforming from rainforest to desert in less than 100 miles. In order to explore water’s influence on the natural and human communities along this gradient, I traveled to Argentina in 2010 and photographed the wetlands of the region. I worked from the lush Valdivian rainforest in the west to the Patagonian desert of the east. Six months after I left, the Puyehue Volcano erupted and dumped ash across the same region. I returned in 2011 to show what this new element meant for the landscape and people of Patagonia. I will present my photographs, share the natural history stories behind them, and discuss what this eruption means for the future of Patagonia.
Did you know that in Kansas, the Climate and Energy Project is capitalizing on heartland values to change behavior and reduce carbon emissions? Learn more at "What's Right with Kansas?", a discussion presented by Science at the Theater, featuring Nancy Jackson, Board Chair of the Climate and Energy Project, and Merrian Fuller, a Berkeley Lab researcher whose work focuses on the financing and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as what motivates behavioral change.
On May 21, our talk was given by Prof. Neil Tsutsui, and was entitled "Extreme Sociality: Supercolonies of the Invasive Argentine Ant".
Social insects dominate many terrestrial ecosystems by forming sophisticated and cooperative colonies. One species, the invasive Argentine ant, has taken this sociality to an extreme – forming massive “supercolonies” across hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of kilometers. Recent studies using synthetic ant pheromones, genomics, behavioral experiments, and old-fashioned field-work have reveal some of the inner workings of these massive societies, and provided explanations for their origin.
The latest issue of the online magazine ScienceMatters@Berkeley has been published! It contains articles about the work done by Cal scientists to study how some plants survived mass extinction events, ways to identify diseased tissues, and the atmospheric chemistry of Jupiter. Check out the latest issue here.
Three recent news stories about the work done by Cal scientists:
Check out these five news stories about Cal biodiversity research!
There are literally dozens of websites at UC Berkeley devoted to the topic of biodiversity. Here's a selection of just a few.