Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A-ha moment... or is it oh no?

I could make the case with dozen of citations from top tier journals but I don't think this is necessary; I think we all know there is a biodiversity crisis with many suggesting we are entering a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene.

I've now teaching my sixth or seventh round of Conservation Biology here at Wilkes and I know I under-utilize all the resources available that could increase active learning (although I still believe that a mixed approach is best... or at least most interesting to me).

So I'm making a web page for Conservation Biology and I'm looking for videos and other more interesting content to post there so please send suggestions. 

The page will be here 


  1. (A series of unfair but important questions follows. . .the answer to all of them at this point, is, of course, "We cannot.")
    How can we establish an accurate Background Extinction Rate when we have not yet established the number of living species even within an order of magnitude?
    How can we establish an accurate Background Extinction Rate when the vast majority of species do not leave a fossil record?
    How can we establish the Anthropogenic impact on Extinction Rates without establishing an accurate Background Extinction Rate?

    None of this, of course, is an argument for ignoring the numerous, well-documented cases of extinctions caused by Anthropogenic factors. . .

  2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1040618214009136

  3. Nice! Hot off the press.. thanks. I was just reading about this meeting too (assuming this is the one with sociologists, geologists, biologists, etc to discuss the Anthropocene).

  4. I'm just old enough to remember some of my professors predicting an asymptote that would quickly be reached by, at the time, genetic sequencing. Before we even applied early methods of genetic sequencing, high-throughput sequencing arrived and that has blown the doors open on biodiversity. Like you said, we can't even guess on the percent of species known for many groups. I think for some groups through, with low species richness and easily detectable, we can get at these estimates more reliably. But what does it mean to have OK estimates for organisms, like birds and mammals, that represents some very very small percentage of life on earth. Whatchyagonnado?

  5. I do not think that anyone would argue that birds and mammals were not a great place to start, given that we are not talking about orders of magnitude here - but an estimate that is within that 95% error bar that you hate so much 8-P. But where is the study that quantifies how many of the current species (although genera are perhaps the better measure), are actually leaving a fossil record? And then uses that data as a baseline to compare current and historic extinctions? There is no reason that it should not be doable, but, AFAIK, it has not been done, and it leaves open that possibility that historic extinction rates have been systematically underestimated. In other words, we simply do not know how great an extinction crisis we are currently in.

  6. That should have been "systematically over or underestimated".