The University of Alabama

Biodiversity Experts Head to UA for Edward O. Wilson Symposium

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International biodiversity experts will join Dr. Edward O. Wilson, a University of Alabama and College of Arts and Sciences alumnus, for the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Symposium, three days of research presentations and forums on the state and future of biodiversity on the planet.

The symposium, which will be held on campus April 22–24, is part of Edward O. Wilson Week at UA.

“The Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Symposium honors one of the University’s most acclaimed alumni, Ed Wilson. Ed is an extraordinary man – visionary academic; Pulitzer Prize–winning author; groundbreaking scientist in the fields of sociobiology, consilience and entomology; and one of the world’s foremost thinkers and innovators in conservation and the environment.

“Our Biodiversity Symposium named after Ed brings together some of the world’s leading experts in biodiversity for three days to discuss and debate the status of the field. We think this will be a fitting tribute to the field that Ed has helped to nurture for so many years and we hope that new and important ideas will come about,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Olin.

“Our planet’s biodiversity provides biological resources, social benefits and life-sustaining ecosystem services. Ecosystem services regulate climate, control disease, and provide food and drinking water, as well as cultural benefits. The Edward O. Wilson symposium provides an exciting opportunity to highlight the importance of Earth’s biodiversity, our need to protect and conserve this invaluable resource and gain insights from renowned scientists into biodiversity’s contributions to Earth’s life-support systems,” said Dr. Patricia Sobecky, chair of the department of biological sciences.

The event will include presentations by internationally recognized scientists and authors working at the forefront of biodiversity research, as well as a poster session by University of Alabama graduate student researchers. Among the speakers are UA biological sciences faculty members Drs. Ryan Earley, Juan M. Lopez-Bautista and Leslie Rissler, and philosophy professor Dr. Richard Richards.

Wilson will be one of some 15 scientists making presentations at the conference. His topic will be “How Humans and Ants Conquered the World.”

The first day of the conference is Earth Day, and Wilson will deliver the symposium’s plenary address, “The State of Global Biodiversity,” that evening, April 22, at 7 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Moody Music Building. The plenary address is free and open to the public.

Wilson will also launch the international release of his new book, “A Window on Eternity: Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique,” as part of the conference and will hold a book signing following his address. “A Window on Eternity” tells the story of how one of the most biologically diverse habitats in the world was destroyed, was restored, and continues to evolve – with more than 100 stunning, full-color photographs by world-class wildlife photographer Piotr Naskrecki.

Alabama conservation and environmental organizations will pay a special tribute to Wilson on April 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall of the Moody Music Building. Alabama biodiversity experts will present their work and discuss Wilson’s influence on it. Admission is $10, and proceeds will benefit scholarships at UA.

Wilson is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and the author of 29 influential books, including “Sociobiology: The New Synthesis and The Diversity of Life.” He won the Pulitzer Prize for his books “The Ants” and “On Human Nature.” He is honorary curator in entomology and university research professor emeritus, Harvard University.

He is the leading expert on ants and one of the world’s leading experts on evolution and species diversity. Wilson’s theories have sparked decades of debate about the interface between the human psyche and human biology.

Wilson is known as the founder of the theory of sociobiology, which proposes that human and animal behavior is shaped by evolutionary forces and which greatly influenced the development of its offshoot, evolutionary psychology. He developed the basis of modern biodiversity conservation efforts through his biophilia hypothesis, which proposes that there is a vital, instinctive bond between humans and all other forms of life.

Throughout his life, Wilson has spearheaded efforts to preserve the world’s biodiversity. He played a central role in establishing the Encyclopedia of Life, which has the goal of curating a Web page for every one of Earth’s species, and he has mobilized the movement to protect the world’s “hot spots,” the realms of highest biodiversity on the planet.

A Birmingham native, Wilson chronicled his childhood sloshing through the woods and creeks of south Alabama in his best-selling 1994 autobiography, “Naturalist.” He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from The University of Alabama and his doctoral degree from Harvard University, where he is also Pelligrino University Research Professor Emeritus and where he taught and conducted research for 45 years.

The symposium will be held in The Zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium, and attendance requires advanced registration. For more information on the symposium and how to register, visit biodiversity.ua.edu.