Monday, October 13, 2008

Paleontological Approaches to studying Endangered Species

From a biological perspective, scientists have been studying the recent biodiversity crisis (loss of numerous endangered species, or extinction) for a while now. Most of the PRI/Museum of the Earth staff have just returned from a large conference, the Geological Society of America conference, where we heard a lot of exciting and interesting talks on the use of paleontology to better understand how to manage endangered species today.

Some talks focused on understanding the impacts of the current climate changes on regions with endangered species, and what we have to do to protect these animals from the future threat of a changing habitat. One specifically talked about our work on preserving coral reefs considering that, as we emit more carbon dioxide, the oceans will become more acidic. Many marine ecosystems will be impacted by this change, and we have to consider this in addition to things like overfishing and pollution.

Other talks were focused on understanding past crises in the fossil record and what we can learn from the species that survived or went extinct during those times. In many ways, geologists are actively trying to understand and help mitigate the problems caused by our changing planet.

Some example talks from GSA

It's exciting to be a geologist today. Applications for a lot of our research can be found in working toward mitigating biodiversity loss, assessing climate change implications, and planning for a better future. So, the next time you meet a child who's really interested in dinosaurs, rocks, or other fossils, encourage him or her, because geology is shaping our future!

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