Backgrounder: Projects of the Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania … Projects of the Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems extend across Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s research collections and to its two locations: the museum in Oakland and the research station at Powdermill Nature Reserve. The Center will build partnerships among researchers and educators from the museum and other regional and national institutions.
While the Center’s specific projects are pending Director John Wenzel’s start in late January 2011, these potential projects are exemplary of the type of work that will be the Center’s purview.
- Marcellus Shale education. There is no bigger topic regarding ecosystem conservation in western Pennsylvania than that of natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale geological formation that underlies the region. At both the museum in Oakland and Powdermill Nature Reserve, the Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems will take a leadership role in multiple projects already underway on this subject, including symposia and informational displays at Powdermill and upcoming exhibitions at the museum.
- Native pollinator conservation. The agricultural value of the pollination services of honeybees has been estimated at approximately $1 billion annually in the United States. As the health crisis among domesticated honeybees known as “Colony Collapse Disorder” has taken its toll on that population, native wild bees have become increasingly recognized as important pollinators. But, there is no single authoritative source that explains which native wild bees are important to which crops, how to provide a good habitat for native bees, and how certain management practices affect these animals. Powdermill Nature Reserve is an ideal location to convene a symposium studying these questions. The resultant data would serve as a landmark in critical foundations of ecosystem management.
- Emerald ash borer study. This invasive beetle has already killed more than 30 million trees in Ohio and Michigan, and has been sighted in western Pennsylvania. No locality has been able to plan far enough in advance of the beetle’s arrival to study the effect of eliminating ash trees from Eastern Forests—until now. With a database of biodiversity and ecosystem information about Powdermill Nature Reserve, the Center’s researchers will monitor the effect on plant and animal species of the loss of ash trees in the ecosystem if (and when) this noxious insect pest arrives.
- Concentrated multidisciplinary study. The museum’s scientists have previously conducted research in regions of environmental concern such as Africa and the Caribbean. However, that work has been specifically geared toward certain specialties—collecting the insects of Hispaniola, for example, but not that island’s mammals. John Wenzel is interested in designating a particular threatened and lesser-known region of the world where the Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems may conduct extensive field research across all of the museum’s areas of expertise. This new approach to interdisciplinary collections and research would make Carnegie Museum of Natural History the producer and guardian of knowledge across biological disciplines regarding specific parts of the world threatened by environmental change.
- Continued avian research. An important aspect of the Center’s work is to expand upon the 50-year database of avian research conducted at Powdermill Nature Reserve. The Center will continue to monitor bird populations and migration in the region through its famed bird banding program as well as bioacoustic research and other programs, with a renewed emphasis on expanding the application and use of this unique data resource.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is ranked among the top five natural history museums in the country. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 20 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the Web site, www.carnegiemnh.org.
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