One of the most important tasks biologists face today is understanding the factors influencing biodiversity loss. While we have an understanding of the primary drivers that lead to species’ population declines like habitat degradation, invasive species, overexploitation, pollution, and climate change, we still need to understand the magnitude of these influences on ecological interactions. Human population growth, increased consumption, and resource inefficiency are pushing species to the brink of extinction, and the extinction of species stresses interconnectedness of ecosystems. Emphasis on the number of species and their population sizes is primarily of focus but species and healthy systems also provide ecosystem services, which benefit our water, food, air, and more. In the U.S., more than one-third of all crop production relies on insect pollination and many pollinator conservation efforts focus on the decline of native bee populations, highlighting the importance of biodiversity to our agriculture system.
In the Headwaters Research Experience, we help students understand the importance of biodiversity and the ecological interactions between plants and animals. Throughout the sessions, we typically have around 20% of students conduct a project related to investigating how pollution, climate change, and human activity influence biodiversity. What’s unique is that these students choose locations close to home! When students do this, it builds a stronger connection between them and their local environment. We encourage students to dive deep into the species they can potentially find within their local area.
Are there threatened or endangered species close to home? What are their roles? Are there invasive species in the area, and are they benefiting or harming the native species? We encourage students to think about these questions to help understand on a deeper level the importance of the current situation. The research undertaken in our program connects students to the environment. Students who go into the biological sciences build on this strong foundation. Not to mention these biodiversity-focused studies get students out into the natural world and showcase a small sample of what field work entails. Whether students are studying microplastics, agricultural run-off, human activity, differences between urban and rural regions, or water quality, there is a project to fit everyone’s interest as they explore the topic of biodiversity.
This week for Headwaters’ Back to School Fundraiser, we’re highlighting endangered species! Donating to Headwaters helps us plan and run the Research Experience and students pursue projects that spark their curiosity and contribute to science. Your support also helps us provide Lunch with a Scientist talks to students around the country. Thank you!