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The Biodiversity Crisis: Earth Day science symposium hosted by the Canadian Museum of Nature

Ottawa, April 16, 2021- Habitat loss, climate change and human interventions are all affecting global biodiversity.

On Earth Day, April 22, the Canadian Museum of Nature will present an overview of the challenges facing life on the planet in a free virtual symposium featuring experts from Canada, the United States, Mexico and Europe.

The conference will kick off with a public talk the evening of April 21 by palaeoecologist Dr. Advait Jukar from Yale University and the museum’s Dr. Danielle Fraser. They will speak about the critical question of whether humans are playing a role in climate change and the extinction of species.

Broadly put, biodiversity refers to the array of life on the planet---from the tiniest microscopic creatures to the largest mammals. Understanding biodiversity requires describing and documenting what exists or has existed, where it is found, and how species interact with each other in ecosystems. This baseline knowledge is a focus for the research and collections experts at the Canadian Museum of Nature, as it is for all major natural history museums.

“Scientists are documenting the loss of biodiversity throughout the world, and sadly, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we may be in the midst of a sixth mass extinction” says Fraser, Director of the museum’s Beaty Centre for Species Discovery and the symposium coordinator. “Recognizing the extent of the problem drives home what it will mean to our own health and wellbeing. So we’ve brought together experts who study these changes on global and local scales to share the impacts of biodiversity loss and the value of conserving the species around us.”

Two keynote presentations will anchor the day’s rollout. The morning begins with a talk by Dr. Camille Parmesan, one of the world’s leading climate and biodiversity scientists, on the role of museum collections in understanding biodiversity change.

The afternoon’s presentation by Dr. Gerardo Ceballos from Mexico will include not only some staggering statistics on species extinction, but also a hopeful message that the global community can act to halt the planet’s degradation.

The symposium theme is timely. Canada’s Royal Society recently presented a joint statement about the biodiversity crisis with science academies in other G7 countries. The Canadian Museum of Nature is also among the first North American institutions to join natural history museums, zoos and aquariums in the European Commission’s global coalition for biodiversity (#UnitedforBiodiversity).

Eleven other speakers will offer their insights. Some highlights are a status report on the health of the world’s oceans, the use of lichens as indicators for biodiversity, and an indigenous perspective on biodiversity monitoring by University of Manitoba professor Dr. Myrle Ballard, an Anishinaabe from Lake St. Martin First Nation.

The symposium will even offer a few punchy “lightning talks” by scientists and graduate students, who pitch their projects over five minutes and make themselves known to others in the conference.

Visit nature.ca/biodiversity for more information about the symposium, including speakers, agenda and free registration, for both the day-long event, as well as the public talk on Thursday, April 21.

Information for media:
Dan Smythe
Head, Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613-566-4781; 613-698-9253 (cell)
dsmythe@mus-nature.ca