Preserving the planet, species by species

The earth is home to an estimated 30 to 50 million species—many of them not yet discovered, and virtually all of them threatened by our human footprint.

At UBC’s Biodiversity Research Centre, more than 50 scientists representing disciplines from botany to zoology are conducting research aimed at helping us understand and conserve the diversity of plants and animals on the planet.  

Researchers at the centre study the entire biological spectrum—from individual genes to entire ecosystems—to reveal the complexity and interrelated nature of life on our planet.

“Species extinctions, as well as widespread shifts in ecosystems, are on the rise due to human activities,” says Sally Otto, the centre’s director. “At the Biodiversity Research Centre, several of our teams study how global warming, ocean acidification, and habitat destruction impact the natural world and what steps are needed to reduce these impacts.”

Using techniques such as mathematical modelling and evolutionary experiments with yeast, Otto, an evolutionary biologist, explores how different species evolve and adapt to changing environments.

Understanding the factors involved in biodiversity, evolution and adaptation can inform future decisions around conservation and preservation, and could also contribute to the development of new medical treatments.




Since the 2010 opening of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC, researchers like Otto share their research and findings about ecology, evolution and conservation with each other and the public. The museum is home to more than two million specimens of plants, animals and fossils—including its iconic centerpiece: a blue whale skeleton. But more importantly, it brings top biodiversity researchers and their teams together under one roof, where they are able to share their knowledge and discoveries—and inspire a more sustainable future. 


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