Biodiversity Lecture Series

In partnership with the Biodiversity Research Centre (BRC), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum presents an ongoing series of lectures exploring our understandings of biodiversity.

As humans we appreciate biodiversity from diverse points of view. As scientists we study its origins and global significance. As artists we celebrate its staggering beauty. As consumers we depend on it. As organisms we participate in it. In this public lecture series, prominent scientists, artists, and public figures will share their perspectives on biodiversity: How did life diversify? What are the ecological interconnections in biodiversity? How does biodiversity matter to us? And, with one of today’s most pressing questions, how much biodiversity can we afford to lose?

For a list of upcoming biodiversity lectures and other events, please visit our Events Calendar.

Past Presentations:


“A rose by many other names”: Sharing and Adapting Ancient Knowledge in Northwestern North America

October 27, 2016, 7:00 p.m.
UBC Earth Sciences Building, Ross Beaty Lecture Theatre
Nancy Turner

In Northwestern North America, plants have supported the survival and well-being of First Peoples of the region for over 13,000 years, providing them with the necessities of life: nutritious foods, materials for construction and implements, fuel, medicines and ceremonial items. Many culturally important plants – over 250 species – are named in multiple Indigenous languages of the area, often reflecting common usage across different speech communities and language families. How did people acquire this rich knowledge about plants and their ecology? How did they pass on their knowledge, practices, and beliefs from generation to generation, from family to family, and from community to community? And, how did they adapt these practices to the new and changing situations they encountered? Even more importantly, in the face of these rapidly changing times, how can this precious knowledge be recognized, maintained, and perpetuated for the benefit of future generations both within and beyond First Nations’ communities? Join ethnobotanist Nancy Turner as she discusses these questions and more.

Nancy J. Turner, CM, OBC, PhD, FRSC, FLS, is an ethnobotanist whose research focuses on traditional knowledge systems and traditional land and resource management systems of Indigenous Peoples of western Canada. She is recently retired from her position as Distinguished Professor and Hakai Professor in Ethnoecology in the School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Canada and is now Professor Emeritus. She is also a 2016 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation fellow. She has worked with, and learned from, First Nations elders and cultural specialists in northwestern North America for over 45 years, helping to document, retain and promote their traditional knowledge of plants and environments, including Indigenous foods, materials and traditional medicines. Her two-volume book, Ancient Pathways, Ancestral Knowledge: Ethnobotany and Ecological Wisdom of Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern North America (July, 2014; McGill-Queen’s University Press), represents an integration of her long term research. She has authored or co-authored/co-edited 19 other books, including: Plants of Haida Gwaii; The Earth’s Blanket; and“Keeping it Living”: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America, as well as over 120 book chapters and peer-reviewed papers. She has received a number of awards for her work, including: Richard Evans Schultes Award in Ethnobotany from the Healing Forest Conservancy, Washington DC (1997); Canadian Botanical Association Award, Lawson Medal for lifetime contributions to Canadian Botany in the field of Ethnobotany (2002); Order of British Columbia, and elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (both 1999); Order of Canada (2009); Distinguished Economic Botanist of the year, Society for Economic Botany (2011); and honorary degrees from Vancouver Island University and University of British Columbia(both 2011), University of Northern British Columbia (2014) and Simon Fraser University (2015); and the James Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award Award from the American Botanical Council, the Klinger Award from the Society for Economic Botany, and the Canada Prize in the Social Sciences from the Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences, for her book, Ancient Pathways.


The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World – Wade Davis

January 29, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
UBC Earth Sciences Building, Ross Beaty Lecture Theatre
Wade Davis

One of the greatest explorers of our generation, a real life Indiana Jones, will be giving our next Biodiversity Lecture. Wade is an anthropologist, ethnobotanist, photographer, and author. Come hear about Wade’s adventurous life and research.

One of the greatest explorers of our generation, a real life Indiana Jones, will be giving our next Biodiverstiy Lecture – The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Wade is an anthropologist, ethnobotanist, photographer, and author. Come hear about Wade’s adventurous life and research.

Wade Davis was named by the National Geographic Society as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet, and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” In recent years his work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, Vanuatu, Mongolia, and the high Arctic of Nunuvut and Greenland.

An ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, Davis holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, living among fifteen indigenous groups in eight Latin American nations while making some 6000 botanical collections. His work later took him to Haiti to investigate folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies, an assignment that led to his writing Passage of Darkness (1988) and The Serpent and the Rainbow (1986), an international best seller later released by Universal as a motion picture.

His other books include Penan: Voice for the Borneo Rain Forest (1990), Shadows in the Sun (1993), Nomads of the Dawn (1995), One River (1996), which was nominated for the 1997 Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction, The Clouded Leopard (1998), Rainforest (1998), Light at the Edge of the World (2001), The Lost Amazon (2004), Grand Canyon (2008), Book of Peoples of the World (ed. 2008), and The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, the 2009 Massey lectures. His books have been translated into fifteen languages, including Basque, Serbian, Korean, Mandarin, Bulgarian, Japanese and Malay, and have sold approximately 800,000 copies worldwide.

This presentation is part of the Biodiversity Lecture Series – in partnership with the Biodiversity Research Centre, the Beaty Biodiversity Museum presents an ongoing series of lectures exploring our understandings of biodiversity.


The State of Canada’s Birds

March 6, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
UBC Earth Sciences Building, Ross Beaty Lecture Theatre
Dick Cannings

Bird population trends are one of the best indicators of ecosystem health. Take flight with Dick Cannings on a Canada-wide assessment of the country’s birds, the first time this had ever been done for any major group of animals.

Bird population trends are one of the best indicators of ecosystem health. They are relatively easy to monitor, and an army of talented and enthusiastic birders is available to gather data on a continental scale. Bird species diversity and varied habitat preferences allow biologists to find patterns in bird population trends that can inform polices on ecosystem management. In 2012, bird biologists brought together data from a wide range of surveys from across Canada to assess the status of the country’s birds, the first time this had ever been done for any major group of animals.

Dick Cannings is a biologist and author living in Penticton, BC. He formerly curated the Cowan Vertebrate Museum in the Department of Zoology at UBC, and has written a dozen books on natural history subjects, including the award-winning British Columbia: a Natural History and An Enchantment of Birds. Much of his work involves the coordination of continent-wide bird population monitoring programs and the conservation of species at risk in Canada.

This presentation is part of the Biodiversity Lecture Series.


Amoeba in the Room

Thursday, October 3, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
Nicholas Money, Miami University
The flowering of microbial science is revolutionizing biology and medicine in ways unimagined just a few years ago and is inspiring a new view of what it means to be human.

Here are some facts of life: a drop of seawater contains 100,000 bacteria and millions of predatory viruses; a pinch of soil swarms with cryptic microbes whose activities are a mystery; the atmosphere is misted with 50 million tons of fungal spores that affect the weather; and, our bodies are farmed by vast populations of bacteria and viruses that control every aspect of our well-being. The more we learn about microbial biodiversity, the less important animals and plants become in understanding life on earth. The flowering of microbial science is revolutionizing biology and medicine in ways unimagined just a few years ago and is inspiring a new view of what it means to be human.

Presenter: Nicholas Money, Miami University

Nicholas Money is Professor of Botany and Western Program Director at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author of more than 70 peer-reviewed papers on fungal biology and has published four books, including Mushroom (2011), described by Nature as a “brilliant scientific and cultural exploration.” The Amoeba in the Room, his new book to be published by Oxford University Press in 2014, examines the extraordinary diversity of the microbial world and the invisible majority of life that is detectable only using molecular methods.

Books for Purchase

Books written by Nicholas Money will be available for purchase on site:

  • Mushroom (2011): Nicholas Money offers a vibrant introduction to the world of mushrooms, investigating the science behind these organisms as well as their enduring cultural and imaginative appeal. A must-read for mycophiles, mushroom gatherers, and nature lovers alike.
  • The Triumph of the Fungi: A Rotten History (2006): This book is concerned with the most devastating fungal diseases in history, focusing on the fascinating biology of the well- and lesser-known diseases, and also tells the stories of the scientists involved in their study, and of the people directly impacted by the loss of forest trees.
  • Carpet Monsters and Killer Spores: A Natural History of Toxic Mold (2004): When an investigation in Ohio revealed that babies suffering from a serious lung illness had been exposed to a toxic black mold in their homes, millions of Americans became nervous about mold in their homes, and the crisis soon ballooned into a fully-fledged media circus with lawsuits filed in every state. Nicholas Money explores the science behind the headlines and courtroom dramas, and profiles the toxin-producing mold that is a common inhabitant of water-damaged buildings.
  • Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard: The Mysterious World of Mushrooms, Molds, and Mycologists (2004): Nicholas Money introduces readers to a dazzling array of fungi, showcases the lives of famed mycologists, and recounts his own childhood introduction to fungi in Mr. Bloomfield’s orchard, where trees and fruit were devoured by a rogue’s gallery of bitter rot, canker, rust, powdery mildew, rubbery wood, and scab.

Parking

The nearest parking is in West Parkade, two blocks south of the Earth Sciences Building on Lower Mall. For more information on how to get to the building, please click here.

Co-Sponsors: Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Biodiversity Research Centre, and Green College at UBC


50 Years in Serengeti: The Science Behind the Story

April 25, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
Dr. Anthony R.E. Sinclair, UBC
Join researcher Dr. Anthony R.E. Sinclair and learn more about the story behind the science; the exciting events that took place while scientists documented these dramatic changes, and why we must now consider the future of conservation.

Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is the foremost World Heritage Site. Research over the past fifty years has shown why Serengeti is unique, what produces its vast numbers and biodiversity, how it became a protected area, and how political, economic, and social events over past centuries have shaped it.

Join researcher Dr. Anthony R.E. Sinclair and learn more about the story behind the science; the exciting events that took place while scientists documented these dramatic changes, and why we must now consider the future of conservation.

About the Speaker

Dr. Anthony R.E. Sinclair began research in 1965 in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, to understand the local increase of animal populations. Over the next five decades, he went on to document the effects of drought and starvation, the role of predators and disease, and the reasons behind the region’s extraordinary migration. These studies have been synthesized in five books culminating with Serengeti Story published in 2012. He has also worked in the Yukon, Australia, and New Zealand. Until recently, Sinclair was Director of the Biodiversity Research Centre at the University of British Columbia. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada.

Multimedia


Baby Steps for SARA: Evaluating the First Decade of Canada’s Species at Risk Act

Tuesday, October 23, 2012, 7 p.m.
Jeannette Whitton, UBC
To explore how well SARA has been implemented, collaborators from UBC and SFU analyzed the progress towards recovering species at risk. Though challenges exist, full implementation of SARA has the potential to effectively protect Canada’s species at risk.

The goal of Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) is to prevent the loss of Canada’s biodiversity. Ten years after the enactment of SARA, more than 500 species have been listed, including icons like the Vancouver Island marmot, polar bear and burrowing owl, but excluding others like Atlantic cod, tri-colored bat and the coast manroot. Once listed, the act requires a species recovery plan be developed, but more than half of the species listed under SARA still await plans, with only a handful moved forward to the action stage.

To explore how well SARA has been implemented, collaborators from UBC and SFU analyzed the progress towards recovering species at risk. Though challenges exist, full implementation of SARA has the potential to effectively protect Canada’s species at risk.

Presenter: Jeannette Whitton, Director of UBC Herbarium, Beaty Biodiversity Museum

Jeannette Whitton is an evolutionary biologist who studies the origin and spread of plants in nature. She studied at Macdonald College (McGill University) as an undergraduate before pursuing a Ph. D. at the University of Connecticut. Jeannette arrived at UBC in 1997, and is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Botany, and a Member of the Biodiversity Research Centre. She has been the director of the UBC Herbarium since 2006, and was Scientific Co-director of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum in 2011. She has served as a member of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) since 2007.

Co-Sponsors: Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Biodiversity Research Centre and UBC Department of Botany

Multimedia


Frequent Fliers: Tracking Songbird Migration Through the Americas

Monday, August 13, 2012, 7:00 p.m.
Bridget Stutchbury
North American Ornithological Conference – Vancouver 2012 (NAOC-V), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and Nature Vancouver are pleased to offer a free public lecture “Frequent Fliers: Tracking Songbird Migration through the Americas” by internationally renowned scientist, Dr. Bridget Stutchbury from York University.

North American Ornithological Conference – Vancouver 2012 (NAOC-V), the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and Nature Vancouver are pleased to offer a free public lecture “Frequent Fliers: Tracking Songbird Migration through the Americas” by internationally renowned scientist, Dr. Bridget Stutchbury from York University.

Each fall, billions of songbirds leave Canada on an epic journey to their far-away wintering grounds in Central and South America where many live in tropical forests shared by toucans, howler monkeys, and jaguars. Dozens of species have experienced serious, long-term population declines that are driven in part by the threats that these birds face on migration and while in the tropics. But only recently has it been possible to track the entire migration of individual songbirds to find out how they accomplish their amazing 10,000 km (or more!) round trip and to map out critical habitats used during migration. Bridget Stutchbury will reveal her surprising migration tracking results for Purple Martins, Red-eyed Vireos and Wood Thrushes and discuss how this research can help us save songbirds.

Multimedia

Biography

Bridget Stutchbury was born in Montreal and raised in Toronto. She completed her M.Sc. at Queen’s University and her Ph.D. at Yale, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution. She is a professor and Canada Research Chair in Ecology and Conservation Biology at York University, Toronto. Since the 1980s, she has followed songbirds to their wintering grounds in Latin America and back to their breeding grounds in North America to understand their behaviour, ecology and conservation. She serves on scientific advisory committees for World Wildlife Fund Canada, Wildlife Preservation Canada, and Earth Rangers. She is also author of Silence of the Songbirds (2007 finalist for the Governor General’s Award) and The Bird Detective (April 2010).