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Cataloging an Ecosystem

UC Berkeley professor George Roderick/Environmental Science, Policy and Management


Roderick: For me as a biologist, this is an amazing opportunity because it allows us to pull together many of the kinds of research we've been doing for a very long time and in a beautiful location. This field station that Berkeley owns and operates on the island of Moorea is an island in the Pacific. It's one of the most isolated islands in the world and this project will catalog all the species - marine and terrestrial - from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the highest mountain and provide this catalog for researchers to do ecological and evolutionary studies. This is the first project to use DNA to understand and entire ecosystem - all the players, all the species that interact in this ecosystem and how they interact. I really like working in Moorea and one of the reasons I like it so much is there's nothing that can hurt you. My wife is a biologist, she's a spider systemist also at Berkeley and we take our children there to conduct our research and it's a great place to have children in the forest because they can't get hurt. Because it's isolated, it means that very few things actually got there, so there are not many organisms that are dangerous. For example, there are no deadly snakes and when you get up to the higher elevations, there are no biting insects. When we're finished with this project, it will be a how-to guide for how to conduct ecological studies and tropical ecosystems or any ecosystem for that matter. We'll have information available for how to collect specimens, how to identify them and how to use them in ecological studies. We need to speed up the process of research to address urgent questions having to do with global change, including global warming, sea level rise, the impacts of invasive species and we need to do this quickly and we need to provide this information to people all over the world. Researchers everywhere who can use the information.