BAR HARBOR, MAINE – Jacquelyn Gill, Ph.D., a paleoecologist and biogeographer, will discuss creative strategies to protect species in a warming world at the next MDI Science Café, to be held at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 27, 2016, at the Kinne Library at the MDI Biological Laboratory. Her presentation is entitled “Should We Clone the Woolly Mammoth to Protect the Tundra from Climate Change?”
Gill, who holds a joint appointment as assistant professor of paleoecology and plant ecology at the University of Maine with the Climate Change Institute and the School of Biology and Ecology, argues that the joint threats of climate change and human activity will combine to create new challenges to biodiversity in the coming century that will require creative thinking about conservation strategies.
“Over the last decade, it’s become increasingly apparent that 20th century conservation strategies may be poorly suited to protect species in a changing world,” she writes in her blog, “The Contemplative Mammoth.”
Such conservation strategies are impractical because they are place-based and species-specific, which becomes problematic when dealing with many places and more than a million species under threat, many of which are moving from place to place. Such strategies also are expensive. The impracticality of current strategies has given rise to a growing number of creative, but often controversial, alternatives, including:
- Use of geophysical surrogates for biodiversity – or, as Gill puts it, protecting the stage rather than the actors. Areas with more geophysical diversity – more soil classes, topographic heterogeneity, geologic features, etc. — harbor more biological diversity.
- Managed relocation, or intentionally moving critically endangered species to new geographic areas as a means of preservation. While some maintain this strategy is not viable on a large scale, Gill says it may be the only way to help some species.
- Rewilding, or replacing locally extirpated or extinct species – for instance, reintroducing bison or replacing mammoths and saber-toothed cats with elephants and lions. But, as Gill asks, why use proxies when you can have the real thing?
- De-extinction, or using genetic tools to bring extinct species such as the woolly mammoth back to life, and in the process restoring lost ecosystem functions, from seed dispersal to restoring a rich ecosystem based on woolly mammoths and grass.
Gill will address emerging and novel conservation methods, as well as how a deep-time perspective – including the study of long-dead organisms in the fossil record — can inform ecology, conservation and management by helping us to better understand threats to biodiversity.
MDI Science Cafés are offered through the MDI Biological Laboratory in fulfillment of its mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The popular events offer a chance to hear directly from scientists about their latest research. Short presentations delivered in everyday language are followed by lively, informal discussion.
The cafés are sponsored by Bar Harbor Bank & Trust and Cross Insurance. The science cafés will alternate with Art Meets Science Cafés at the MDI Biological Laboratory every Monday evening from June 20 to Sept. 19, with the exception of July Fourth and Labor Day. The cafés will take place at 5 p.m. at the Kinne Library.
The MDI Biological Laboratory’s 2016 Art Meets Science exhibit will also be on view prior to the MDI Science Cafés and Art Meets Science Cafés starting at 4:15 p.m. For more information on these events, please visit mdibl.org/events.