Biodiversity Expert Speaks at U.Va.

By Melissa Maki

The “Environment, Conservation and Culture” series, sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, held a talk on April 12th featuring Dr. Kevin Gaston.  The talk was also a part of the Department of Environmental Sciences’ Fred Holmsley Moore speaker series.

Gaston is a renowned scholar and professor at the University of Sheffield. Gaston also heads the university’s Biodiversity and Macroecology Group- BIOME which involves researchers and students in the study of biodiversity, conservation biology and macroecology.

Gaston’s lecture title “The Best and Worst of Times: Patterns and Problems in Biodiversity.”    was inspired by the Dickens’ classic “A Tale of Two Cities.”  Gaston expounded on this theme by noting that scientists know more than ever before about the state of biodiversity in the world and are actively developing plans to address problems.  At the same time, he pointed out that extinction risks to plants and animals and environmental pollutants are at an all-time high.  Likewise, Gaston suggested that even though many plans have been created to counteract the problems, there is not much action happening on the ground level.

Gaston noted that human settlements are correlated with problems such as deforestation and invasive species but also acknowledged an “underlying relationship between having a high number of species and a high number of people” in an area.  Gaston referenced applicable research and emphasized “we really need to understand these kinds of interactions.” 

Closing with a quote from Lord May regarding the “…serious problems that derive from the realities of the external world: climate change, loss of biological diversity, new and re-emerging diseases, and more...” Gaston highlighted the need to take action today to prevent the continued loss of biodiversity.