Nature’s Secrets

Biologist to speak in Raleigh about biodiversity

December 2, 2012 

Destroying a tropical rain forest and other species-rich ecosystems for profit is like burning all the paintings of the Louvre to cook dinner.

Edward O. Wilson,

Pellegrino University Research Professor in Entomology at Harvard University

World-renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson is writing a book for young people called “Letters to a Young Scientist,” scheduled for publication in early 2013.

Although it sounds slightly out of context for one of the world’s top scientific experts on biological diversity, this Harvard professor has embarked on a desperate quest. He has no time to lose. His urgent mission is to communicate science effectively to the public, especially messages about the astonishing losses of biodiversity on Earth.

With some futility, he has tried myriad approaches to garner attention for his mission – novels, scientific writing, university teaching, advising political leadership, creating a nonprofit, a Web-based encyclopedia and dealing with a hectic public-lecture schedule and international acclaim akin to that of a rock star.

Now he will use the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Nature Research Center to address teens. At 1 p.m. Dec. 13, Wilson will have a virtual conversation addressing students across the state, country and world from the Raleigh facility’s Daily Planet multimedia theater.

Musing about the thousands of bacteria that exist in a teaspoon of soil and the millions of creatures inhabiting forest canopies, Wilson will not only host a virtual conversation with teenagers, but also launch his new virtual textbook, “Life on Earth,” at the center’s Citizen Science lab. This downloadable app ($1.99 for iPads) featuring amazing graphics can help transform users into global scientific explorers.

The center’s Teen Advisory Board provides the voice of young people for the museum’s new wing. They not only endorsed the visit of Wilson as an important voice for biodiversity, but also had a few comments:

• “Our generation has the potential to discover so much (if we don’t destroy it all first).” – Doug, Enloe High School, Apex

• “To me, the loss of biodiversity means the loss of many types of life that are essential to Earth.” – Meghana, East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill

• “There are still many species of plants and animals that we do not know much about. What if one of these plants had the potential to cure a disease?” – Lin, Green Hope High School, Cary

Everyone is invited to speak with Wilson about biodiversity at the event. Join in a global virtual conversation by linking to www.livestream.com/naturalsciences. Your children will thank you.

Meg Lowman, an N.C. State University professor and forest canopy expert, directs the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences’ Nature Research Center. Online: www.canopymeg.com.

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