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Contact: Diana Wall
International Biodiversity Observation Year

Information technology provides biologists with new tools for biodiversity conservation

Information Technology, or IT, is spurring a revolution in biodiversity research that can deliver a more complete view of the world and help conserve species, according to six biologists who will speak today at American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting and Science Innovation Exposition in Boston, MA. "Biodiversity research today uses the latest IT as much as the traditional butterfly nets and flower presses", said Diana Wall, organizer of the symposium and soil ecologist at Colorado State University, in an interview in advance of the symposium. "It has given us the ability to draw on multiple pieces of information from across the world."

Each of the speakers at the symposium "Biodiversity Science and Global Research: the International Biodiversity Observation Year" leads an international research project as part of the International Biodiversity Observation Year (IBOY) 2001-2002. IBOY is an initiative of DIVERSITAS, the international program on biodiversity science. It seeks to network scientists to improve knowledge about biodiversity and its importance for healthy ecosystems and human societies.

The speakers will present findings across issues as varied as biodiversity itself, but their unifying message is that IT has become a vital tool to help understand global biodiversity issues that are crucial for sustainability. Examples of the technologies being used include 3-D electronic images of species that are accelerating identification of poorly known groups of animals, 'distributed' or interconnected databases that enable scientists to query data stored in multiple databases across the world at the touch of a button, and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) a computer-based tool used to map and analyze multiple and complex characteristics of landscapes, including natural and anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity.

The symposium speakers hope that the new opportunities that information technology affords will promote increased biodiversity research and policy action at the global scale. "It has been a decade since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, otherwise known as the Earth Summit, called attention to the global problem of biodiversity loss," said Wall, "Yet the vast majority of research and policy action on biodiversity remains local or regional." Wall believes a major effort is now essential to put these local pieces together to understand issues such as how many species we share our planet with, which species are particularly valuable or vulnerable, and how we can manage changing ecosystems.


Editor's Note:

The Session "Biodiversity Science and Global Research: the International Biodiversity Observation Year" takes place on Friday, February 15, 2002, at the AAAS Annual Meeting and Science Innovation Exposition, Boston, MA.

More information on the International Biodiversity Observation Year (IBOY) taking place in 2001 - 2002 can be found at http://www.nrel.colostate.edu/IBOY. IBOY is chaired by Dr. Diana Wall, the co-organizer of this symposium. The IBOY Secretariat is located at Colorado State University.

IBOY is an initiative of DIVERSITAS. Intellectual sponsorship is provided by the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), International Union of Microbiological Sciences (IUMS), Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). IBOY has been endorsed by the Sixteenth International Botanical Congress (IBC) and the Second World Conservation Congress of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The Fifth Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) invited parties to participate in the IBOY. Financial sponsorship of IBOY is provided by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) (under Grant No. DEB-0122141), the International Council for Science (ICSU), Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International (CABS), the International Group of Funding Agencies (IGFA), DIVERSITAS, and two anonymous US foundations. We acknowledge the support of the US National Committee for DIVERSITAS and the Board on International Scientific Organizations of the National Research Council.

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