Conservation Advocates E.O. Wilson and Peter Raven to Receive Linnaean Legacy Award and Deliver Biodiversity Lectures

The Academy and the Linnean Society of London will co-host a public awards ceremony on Saturday, November 6.

Published November 02, 2010

Biologist Edward O. Wilson and botanist Peter H. Raven will receive the 2010 Linnaean Legacy Award Saturday, Nov. 6, at the New York Academy of Sciences. Each will also deliver a public lecture on the future of biodiversity. The ticketed event begins at 7:30 p.m.

The award, presented by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and the Linnean Society of London, recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the science of taxonomy. It is named for the distinguished Swedish botanist and doctor Carolus Linnaeus, who developed the binomial naming system of plants and animals that provides the fundamental framework for knowledge of the biota of the Earth.

The title of Wilson’s talk is “Exploring a Little Known World in Order to Save It.” Raven will address “Which Gaps Can We Fill, What Can We Save?”

Tickets for the Linnaean Legacy Award presentation and lecture are available from the New York Academy of Sciences. Tickets are $20 for nonmembers and $10 for nonmember students. The NYAS is located at 7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich St., 40th floor. More information is online at www.nyas.org.

“This award and public lecture are designed to draw attention to taxonomy, the science responsible for species exploration and classification, which has been largely ignored in recent decades,” said entomologist Quentin Wheeler, founding director of Arizona State University’s International Institute for Species Exploration and former Keeper of Entomology at the Natural History Museum in London.

“If NASA astronauts discovered some distant planet teeming with biodiversity threatened by imminent extinction, we would immediately undertake a massive program to explore its life forms. Because human welfare depends on services from sustainable ecosystems, there are urgent and greater reasons to inventory the species of our own biosphere. Yet, we have described at most 20 percent of Earth species,” said Wheeler, a professor, university vice president and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.

“Unless we establish baseline knowledge of what plants and animals exist here, we will be powerless to detect or monitor impact on species of environmental change and our efforts in sustainability, conservation biology, and environmental problem-solving will be severely limited,” he said.

“No one knows this urgency better than Ed Wilson and Peter Raven. Each, in their own way, has been trumpeting the call to explore all of Earth’s species,” Wheeler said. “Normally this award is given to one biodiversity champion annually. This year, however, we are stepping up our call to action and added the forceful voices of two well-known and respected activists. The efforts by Raven and Wilson are as influential on science and society today as were those of Linnaeus in the 18th century.”

Wilson is a University Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard. No stranger to lofty titles (dubbed “Darwin’s natural heir” in 2001 by the Guardian Unlimited, UK) Wilson is considered by many to be one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. While much of his career is seemingly rooted in the study of myrmecology (the study of ants), his deft intellect has evoked new fields of thought about man and the entirety of nature.

“Father” to sociobiology and island biogeography, Wilson’s seminal works in evolution of social behavior and commitment to conservation have shaped the face of science, philosophy, ethics, economics and activism.

Wilson is also the Honorary Curator in Entomology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard and the co-founder of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

Raven is President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Time magazine described him in 1999 as a “hero for the planet.” Many know this respected botanist for his leadership at the Missouri Botanical Garden, a National Historic Landmark, which he nurtured into a world-class center for botanical research and education, and horticultural display.

Raven is a leading advocate for conservation and a sustainable environment. He is a globetrotter, championing research around the world to preserve endangered plants; cultivating research and educational programs in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as well as North America.

He also is the George Engelmann Professor Emeritus of Botany at Washington University in St. Louis, and an adjunct professor of biology at St. Louis University.

Past recipients of the Linnaean Legacy Award are Norman Platnick and Richard Fortey.

NOTES TO REPORTERS/EDITORS/PRODUCERS:
• There are two different spellings of Linnaean/Linnean – it’s the Linnaean Legacy Award and the Linnean Society of London.
• If you would like to attend the Linnaean Legacy Award presentation and lecture, please contact Adrienne Burke, Director Public Outreach, The New York Academy of Sciences, aburke@nyas.org, 212-298-8655

The International Institute for Species Exploration is a pioneering research center established in 2007 at Arizona State University to advance “cybertaxonomy,” a fusion of taxonomy with computer science and engineering.

The Linnean Society of London is the custodian of Linnaeus' collections, which comprises specimens of plants, fish, shells and insects acquired from the widow of Carl Linnaeus in 1784 by James Edward Smith. The collections also include the library of Linnaeus (some 1,600 volumes) and about 3,000 letters and manuscripts. It is the Linnean Society's aim to make available its primary research material in digital formats to support taxonomic and conservation efforts worldwide as well as providing public pleasure and enjoyment.

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide since 1817. With 25,000 members in 140 countries, NYAS is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. NYAS' core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large.