Urgent Action on Biodiversity Topic of Public Event

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Threats to species worldwide, and how to protect those species, are the topic of a University of Guelph-sponsored public event to be held Aug. 19 at the River Run Centre in Guelph.

The event will bring together leading scientists from around the world to discuss threats and problems facing biodiversity as well as potential solutions.

It’s part of the International Barcode of Life conference coming to U of G Aug. 18-21. The conference is expected to draw more than 500 scientists from 56 countries using DNA barcoding to identify species.

Holding the “State of Biodiversity” discussion in downtown Guelph will attract more people to learn how changes to our natural world are speeding up global extinction rates, said organizing committee member Bob Hanner. He’s a professor in U of G’s Department of Integrative Biology and Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at Guelph.

The session will feature short talks by leading scientists and conservationists, including Monte Hummel, president emeritus of World Wildlife Canada, and Stuart Pimm, a world leader in the study of present day extinctions and conservation biology.

Karl Tibelius, vice-president of Genomics Programs for Genome Canada, will give opening remarks.

Speakers will discuss threats to birds and bees and more elusive species in the Arctic and the oceans, and how DNA barcoding helps in monitoring and conserving biodiversity.

First proposed by Guelph integrative biologist Paul Hebert, this technique allows researchers to identify animal and plant species using short, standardized regions of genetic material.

“DNA barcoding has proved an excellent tool for studying many aspects of biodiversity and conservation,” said Brock Fenton, emeritus biology professor at the University of Western Ontario and a renowned bat researcher who will chair the event.

“First, it has enhanced our ability to document species richness, and, second, it has allowed us to appreciate the details of interactions among species.”

He said the public event will “underscore the urgency of positive action to protect biodiversity.”

The event includes a 5:45 p.m. welcome reception hosted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce.

The discussion will take place from 7 to 9:30 p.m. A limited number of $10 public tickets are available. More information is online.

Other university professors speaking at the event are: David Hik; University of Alberta; Laurence Packer, York University; Paul Snelgrove, Memorial University of Newfoundland; and Bridget Stutchbury, York University.