Why Should You Care About Biological Diversity?

Eleanor J. Sterling, Nora Bynum, Melina Laverty, Ian Harrison, Sacha Spector, and Elizabeth Johnson – Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History

A 2003 SENCER Model

Topics of Interest to the SENCER Community

The Paper Begins with a Definition of Biodiversity and Recommends Areas of Public Policy and Academic Interest for Preserving Biodiversity

Includes a Brief Discussion About the Necessity of Teaching Students About Biodiversity from a Multidisciplinary Standpoint

  • Such methods will help students understand the ways in which issues of biodiversity directly impact their lives.
  • Such teaching strategies will also reinforce the concept of human dependency on diverse species of plants and animals for health and survival.

Provides an Overview of Problems Faced in Biodiversity Conservation from the Genetic Level to the Species and Community Levels

Explains the Role of Education and Public Policy in Reversing Biodiversity Depletion and Insuring the Success of Future Biodiversity Conservation Efforts

Full Report

Why Should You Care About Biological Diversity?

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About the Authors

Eleanor Sterling
American Museum of Natural History

As Director of the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC), Eleanor Sterling oversees strategic planning and project development, leads fundraising efforts, and manages a multidisciplinary staff of over 25. In her capacity as a conservation biologist, Dr. Sterling also conducts fieldwork, studying the distribution patterns of biodiversity in tropical regions of the world and translating this information into recommendations for conservation managers, decision-makers, and educators. Dr. Sterling has extensive expertise developing environmental education programs and professional development workshops, having trained teachers, students, and U.S. Peace Corps volunteers in a variety of aspects related to biodiversity conservation. In 2000, in partnership with colleagues from around the world, Dr. Sterling developed the Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners, which primarily targets undergraduate- and graduate-level educators in developing countries who will train the next generation of conservation biologists. The project’s first training workshops were conducted in Bolivia (August 2001 and July 2002) and Vietnam (May 2002). Dr. Sterling is currently writing a book highlighting Vietnam’s remarkable biodiversity, to be published by Yale University Press. Dr. Sterling has more than 15 years of field research experience in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where she conducted surveys and censuses, as well as behavioral, ecological, and genetic studies of primates, whales, and other mammals. She is considered a world authority on the aye-aye, a nocturnal lemur found only in Madagascar. For the last seven years, Dr. Sterling has served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University, where she now serves as the Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology. Dr. Sterling sits on the Board of Governors of the Society for Conservation Biology, and is both a Board member and Management Committee member of the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC). Dr. Sterling received her B.A. in psychobiology from Yale College in 1983 and her Ph.D. in anthropology and forestry and environmental studies from Yale University in 1993. She joined the Museum in 1996 as the CBC’s Program Director and was named Director of the Center in 2000.

Nora Bynum
CBC Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners (NCEP)

Nora Bynum directs the global activities of the CBC’s Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners (NCEP). Dr. Bynum has extensive experience teaching conservation biology and environmental science at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and has specialized in the design and implementation of intensive, student-active, and field-based learning experiences. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, and at the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University. In her previous position as Academic Director for the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), Dr. Bynum provided academic leadership for a program of more than twenty graduate, undergraduate, and environmental policy field-based courses in several countries. She has worked extensively in the fields of tropical ecology, conservation and education in Latin America and Asia.

Melina Laverty
American Museum of Natural History

Melina Laverty is the International Field Program Manager at the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. She manages planning and logistics for field expeditions to various CBC project countries. Ms. Laverty has also been developing biodiversity conservation curriculum materials which she helped pilot with university educators in Bolivia. Before coming to the Museum, Ms. Laverty worked for the World Conservation Union (IUCN) office for Meso America in San Jose, Costa Rica. Ms. Laverty has a Master’s degree in marine environmental science from the Marine Sciences Research Center in Stony Brook, New York. She speaks French and Spanish and has international field experience in Barbados, Canada, Tanzania, Sweden, Madagascar, and Mesoamerica.

Ian Harrison
Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History

Ian Harrison is the coordinator for the US-based activities of the Center’s Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners project. He joined the museum in 1997, as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ichthyology. He has helped develop scientific educational resources on the World Wide Web for students and educators and has served as an adjunct professor for City University of New York, teaching classes in ichthyology. He contributed to a CBC project investigating extinctions within the last 500 years. Dr. Harrison has conducted scientific research on the taxonomy and biogeography of marine, brackish, and freshwater fishes, including fieldwork in Europe, Central and South America, West Africa, and the Philippines. He has studied aspects of British fisheries history and current fisheries management, while working at a Fisheries Museum on the North Sea coast of England. Dr. Harrison received his Ph.D. in 1987 from the University of Bristol, England, where he studied the implications of small body size on the biology of fishes.

Sacha Spector
Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History

Sacha Spector manages a number of projects related to developing scientific resources and practical approaches for invertebrate conservation. He also oversees the CBC’s Invertebrate Biodiversity Laboratory and serves as the scientific coordinator of the Center’s projects in Bolivia. Sacha’s research focuses on understanding the patterns of insect communities’ distributions across landscapes and their relationships with plant communities in order to define large scale conservation plans that benefit insect species. He has worked extensively in Latin America since 1994, doing both field research and conducting field workshops for training local entomologists in rapid biodiversity survey techniques. Dr. Spector also serves as an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University, where he teaches conservation biology to undergraduates. He earned his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut.

Elizabeth Johnson
Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History