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The Year of Biodiversity and Conservation

Chicago For more than a century, scientists from The Field Museum have traveled to remote parts of the world and pored over specimens, from bird wings to plant fossils, to learn about the biological diversity of life on Earth. Much of this research has focused on describing extinct and living plants and animals, of which some 1.7 million species are known to exist on our planet.

Today, biodiversity research has taken on a new urgency. Unique species, from medicinal plants in China to butterflies in Illinois, are disappearing at an alarming rate around the world. The loss of biodiversity is a loss for humans: Biodiversity keeps the air and water clean, regulates our climate, and provides us with food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and other useful products. Even more troubling, only a fraction of the Earth's species are known to science. Every year, scientists are discovering new species in the wild and through a variety of traditional and novel research techniques using natural history museum collections.

"We are facing the next great wave of extinctions," says John Bates, Ph.D., Curator of Birds in the Department of Zoology. "If we don't understand what is out there, how can we conserve it for the future?"

THE YEAR OF BIODIVERSITY AND CONSERVATION

To increase awareness of biodiversity, The Field Museum is dedicating this school year as "The Year of Biodiversity and Conservation." The nine-month program will highlight the cutting-edge research and conservation projects of many of the Museum's 76 Ph.D. scientists who work in 75 countries around the world. Every month, from September through May, a different research theme and scientist will be featured. Exhibitions, lectures, scientist roundtables, and public programs will allow visitors to meet scientists and learn about such topics as climate change, the evolution of birds, and the diversity of aquatic life.

"The loss of biodiversity is one of the most pressing environmental i
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Contact: Greg Borzo
gborzo@fieldmuseum.org
312-665-7106
Field Museum
11-Jun-2003


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