Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meeting E.O. Wilson

Most of the week while I was in New Orleans I wasn't seeing cool sights, but rather was in the Sheraton Hotel attending the George Wright Society biennial meeting. The George Wright Society focuses on preserving protected places, such as national parks.

There were countless great talks, and it was a bit overwhelming with about 16 concurrent sessions. I found out more about forest health issues, geographical information systems, hydrology, White Nose Syndrome, park management, and much more.

The highlight of the conference was when I was in a biodiversity session, and half-way through, Edward O. Wilson from Harvard University walked into the room. He listened to our discussion and had some very pertinent comments at the end. After the session ended, a bunch of us science geeks swarmed him like a rock star. I got his autograph and a photo of me standing next to him.

If you haven't heard of E.O. Wilson, here are a few things about him:
  • He coauthored a paper about Island Biogeography that helps explains why there are fewer species on islands that are small and far away from the mainland
  • He is an expert on ants, having started as a young child identifying them
  • He has won two Pulitzer prizes, for On Human Nature (1979) and The Ants (1990)
  • If he had to live his life over, he said he would focus on microbial biology
  • He studied the social behavior of ants, which helped him found the field of sociobiology
  • He found that if ants disappeared, so would humans
  • He is a champion of learning about the biodiversity around us, and encourages people to go out and find what lives in their backyard.
I happened to have a flyer for our Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants) Bioblitz that I'm helping to organize, so I was sure to invite him to it. Yeah, the chances of him coming are less than one percent. But I'm an optimist! And just meeting him makes me want to go out and find what lives in my yard. So here's a heads up for the topic of some upcoming posts...
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