“The Ark and Beyond” Panel Examines How Aquariums Can Protect Biodiversity

“The Ark and Beyond” Panel Examines How Aquariums Can Protect Biodiversity

The Ark and Beyond: The Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation,” the second book in a new series called Convening Science: Discovery at the Marine Biological Laboratory, was celebrated last week with a panel discussion on biodiversity in MBL’s Lillie Auditorium.

This volume examines the many human-caused threats to wild species around the world, and how zoos and aquariums can play critical roles in restoring or sustaining wild populations.

Ben Minteer, lead editor of “The Ark and Beyond” and professor of environmental ethics and conservation at Arizona State University, introduced the panel and acted as moderator.

“Zoos and aquariums have the ability to promote a sense of wonder and a connection to nature among visitors,” said Minteer. “They are anchors for effective conservation action championed by generations of conservation wildlife scientists and advocates, from Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson to Archie Carr and Jane Goodall.”

The book panel included experts on aquariums, aquarium technology, and marine biodiversity: Samantha Muka, Kristy Owen,  David Remsen, and John Mandelman.

Remsen, director of Marine Research Services at the MBL, discussed how marine laboratories are in a unique position to study and monitor their local coastal ecosystems. He also explained how biodiversity is at the heart of what the MBL does and is a priority for the lab.

“Healthy ecosystems provide the raw material, biodiversity, for helping us cure cancer, work toward understanding Alzheimer’s disease, treat spinal cord injuries, and contribute to a host of other biomedical issues we haven’t thought of yet,” said Remsen. “Many species are not charismatic megafauna such as sea turtles or orca. But nonetheless, they have clear value when it comes to biomedical advancements.”

All organisms, even those yet to be discovered, have the potential to be valuable not only to science, but to medicine, the panel discussion made clear.  Aquariums and marine laboratories can educate lawmakers, teachers, future generations of scientists and the general public to value biodiversity and can even inspire them to take conservation action in their own lives.

Published by University of Chicago Press, the Convening Science book series is edited by MBL Fellow Jane Maienschein of Arizona State University.

“The Ark and Beyond: The Evolution of Zoo and Aquarium Conservation” edited by Ben A. Minteer, Jane Maienschein, and James P. Collins, is available at a 40 percent discount in the MBL Gift Shop (100 Water Street, Woods Hole), from the MBLWHOI Library, or from University of Chicago Press.

Photo caption (top): Ben Minteer, lead editor of “The Ark and Beyond” discusses the role of zoos and aquariums in conservation at the panel discussion. Credit: Sarah Lawhun

Photo caption (middle): Panelists answer questions about how aquariums can aid in conservation. From left: John Mandelman, David Remsen, Kristy Owen, and Samantha Muka. Credit: Sarah Lawhun

This content was selected for The Well by Sarah Lawhun