1,500 Acres of Life
Revisiting the year’s intriguing science: Educating the educators at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station
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Watch the video above to see images from the Tiputini Biodiversity Station.
Great science is timeless and not only within Albert Einstein’s frame of reference. It answers mysteries, reveals deeper structures, goes after truth with explanations that survive far longer than the human scientists who make the discoveries. That said, the discoverers, their intuition, and their process are fascinating in themselves, as this week’s collection of science-based reporting from the recent school year attests.
In January, Douglas Zook and eight science education specialists from colleges around the country traveled to one of the best spots in the world to study biodiversity — the rain forest of Ecuador. The School of Education associate professor of science education and global ecology led the group on a conservation biology advocacy program to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the eastern Ecuadorian Amazon area. The location was ideal for the purpose, which was to showcase the diversity of species in the region: the 1,500-acre station, developed by BU and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, is adjacent to the Yasuni National Park — one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world, with nearly 2,000 species of freshwater fish, 680 species of amphibians and reptiles, 1,435 species of birds, 230 species of mammals, 20,000 species of flowering plants, and tens of thousands of insects.
Each day Zook and his team explored the rain forest to observe and document the diversity of life. The images and information they collected will be used to develop ecology and conservation curricula — covering topics such as health, global warming, and the consequences of loss of biodiversity — and a digital image ecology library. While Tiputini is 3,000 miles from Boston, the region’s biodiversity affects everyday life in the Hub and around the world, Zook says, in areas ranging from pharmaceutical research to global warming.
“We’re trying to get people to realize the importance of conserving not only energy, but land areas that are important to our health and future,” he says. “And what better way to do that than by having teachers who train other teachers have that experience — we can almost guarantee that we’re going to influence more people that way.”
The recent discovery of oil fields within Yasuni National Park, however, has many researchers concerned about the station’s future. Zook hopes that continued educational trips will demonstrate the area’s importance.
“The more researchers and students we have visiting the area,” he says, “the more the Ecuadorian government will view it as a treasure, ensuring that oil exploration and the resulting damages are as limited as possible.”
Those interested in supporting the Tiputini Biodiversity Station may contribute to the Tiputini Support Group. Developed by Boston University’s Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology and the International Symbiosis Society, the Tiputini Support Group is raising funds for necessary conservation research and education assistance at Tiputini. Some of the current goals include developing alternative energy projects at the station, such as stationary energy-generating bicycles and solar panels.
Robin Berghaus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally ran February 19, 2009.+ Comments