Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Standing Room Only for E.O. Wilson Tonight

I'm glad I arrived early for E.O Wilson at Midwestern State University tonight as it was standing room only. Of course, many students were there because it was a class assignment, but there were a lot of students and members of the public there. The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists turned out in force.

Dr. Wilson spoke as part of the Midwestern State University Speakers & Issues Series.

I am posting just a hodge podge of what I thought were interesting bits throughout the 1.5 hour presentation.

Wilson's Law: If we save the living environment, we will automatically save the physical environment. But if we only save the physical environment, we will ultimately lose them both.

Dr. Wilson encouraged biology students to enter fields studying organisms that we know little about but that have a huge impact upon the environment: fungi and nematodes, for example. He referred to these organisms as "little creatures that run the engine of the world." Nematodes for example, constitute 4 of 5 animals on the earth.

1 gram of soil contains 1 billion bacteria (approximately 5000 - 6000 species.)

A human mouth contains 150 species of bacteria which act to hold pathogens at bay.

If 1 cell of the human body (of the trillion cells of the body) was the size of Wichita Falls, a bacterium would be the size of a football field and a virus the size of a football.

The DNA from a single cell if laid out flat would be 1 meter in length. However, if we increased the size of the DNA strand to the thickness of string, the length would be 1820 miles.

If you decrease the size of an island (referring to habitat) to 10% of the original mass, the number of species will decrease by 50%.

Primary causes of loss of species:
- Habitat reduction
- Invasive species
- Pollution
- Population
- Overharvesting

Dr. Wilson also mentioned two major biodiversity projects underway. The Encyclopedia of Life is intended to be an open source on every species known to man. Also of future use to researchers in biodiversity is a digital library of all writings on biodiversity is the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

I hadn't heard but the UN designated 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. Why haven't I heard about that? Not surprisingly, the US has not signed the International Biodiversity Agreement that was negotiated this year.

Dr. Wilson showed the dramatic decrease in tropical rainforests throughout the world, which are the locations of the highest biodiversity. He also showed critical areas for conservation. He estimated that an investment of $50B worldwide could save 50% of species if it is properly applied. Really, in the scheme of things, this is not a lot of money for the world economy.

Dr. Wilson gave us a lot of food for thought. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. Many thanks to MSU, the Speakers and Issues Committee and their donors for bringing such a wonderful speaker to our community.

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