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Biodiversity really matters

Date Released: Tue, 11 January 2011 15:43 +0200

The South African Society for Systematic Biology has organised a conference with the theme “Biodiversity Matters” at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. This follows on from the United Nations' celebration of Biodiversity in 2010, an indication of the international importance of this subject.

Professor Martin Villet, a lecturer in the Rhodes University Department of Entomology and Zoology and an Honorary Research Associate of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) said, "The conference has adopted this theme for its discussion of matters, issues and topics in the study of biodiversity.

“It is a celebration of the rich heritage of nature and why biodiversity matters to human welfare, economics and pleasure.”

The conference has four main objectives: to raise awareness of the current knowledge of the biological diversity of the region, to share that knowledge in the international scientific community and the general public, to look for common patterns of diversity that might suggest how this diversity arose and finally, to find evidence of how diversity has responded to changes in the environment over the last few million years.

There are four workshops scheduled for delegates, one of which will be facilitated by the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity's database and Information Specialist, Willem Coetzer, on using Specify 6 software for managing taxonomic collections. A conference highlight is a workshop led by Pavel Stoev of Pensoft Publishing in Bulgaria, the publishers of the innovative research journals ZooTaxa and ZooKeys, on the topic of internet taxonomy and cybersystematics, a cutting-edge technical development in the field of biodiversity research.

Among the 90 research presentations, there are talks by an array of national and international plenary speakers: Peter Weston (Royal Botanical Garden, Sydney: the history of southern hemisphere plants), Luciano Beheregaray (Flinders University, Adelaide: the integration of biology and geography), Steve Goodman (Field Museum, Chicago: the biodiversity of Madagascar), and Tim Crowe (University of Cape Town: systematic of game birds). Dr Michelle Hamer (South African National Biodiversity Institute) will present a seminar about legislative initiatives relating to biodiversity.

The conference is a joint initiative of the Rhodes University's Departments of Zoology & Entomology and Botany, SAIAB and the Albany Museum of Natural History, but its delegates give it an international profile.

The conference runs from 19-21 January 2011, and takes place in the Biological Sciences Building at Rhodes University. Anyone interested in attending should contact the organisers at conferences@ru.ac.za about registering.