Maintaining biodiversity’s contributions to people for sustainable development under a changing climate
Villahermosa, Mexico, August 27-30, 2018
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Publication date: 13 June 2018
Dr Ben Collen was an internationally recognized conservation scientist whose work has provided new knowledge and understanding about recent trends in wildlife populations across the world. His research was at the forefront of developing science-based indicators to track the precipitous loss of biodiversity around the world and had a major impact on global conservation policies. He died on 19 May 2018 at the age of 40 following a bone cancer diagnosis just 15 months earlier. He tackled his illness with the same attitude that characterized his work, always being positive, open, creative and with great good humour. His untimely death has left a huge hole not only in UCL’s newly-established Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, of which he was a founder member, but also in the international conservation science community.
After graduating in 2001 with a degree in Biology at Imperial College, Ben spent a year working in Kenya undertaking field work on large mammals. The bug to work in conservation took hold and he studied for a Master’s degree at the University of York, undertaking his research project with a like-minded set of conservation biologists based at the Institute of Zoology in London. Ben stayed on to study for a PhD with Professor Georgina Mace and Professor Andy Purvis at Imperial College on understanding how to assess species extinctions. In 2005, with his PhD completed, Ben joined the Indicators and Assessments Unit at the Institute of Zoology working with Dr Jonathan Baillie. Ben was instrumental in the re-launch of the WWF Living Planet Index (LPI). Ben massively enhanced the underlying data and rigour of the analysis of the index that established it as the most widely used indicator of global wildlife population trends, an essential tool for understanding human impacts on our planet’s biodiversity. His work led to a wide range of international collaborations with academics, governments and conservation charities, making him a key contributor to the landmark assessment of the state of global biodiversity in 2010.
In 2013 he joined UCL’s Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER) in the Genetics, Evolution and Environment Department, and was promoted to Reader in 2015. Ben played a critical role in defining CBER’s research agenda and developing it as an international centre of excellence for biodiversity research, now with over 40 research staff, post-docs and PhD students. Ben’s own research attracted a large group of research students and postdocs working on understanding how biodiversity is changing across the world, supported by several large research grants, most recently from the Leverhulme Trust, WWF UK and the Darwin Initiative. He made a major contribution to the re-establishment of an undergraduate field course at UCL’s unique field site at Blakeney Point on the north Norfolk coast, and will be remembered by a number of cohorts of Biological Science students for his lively encouragement of their first experience of field research.
We are all devastated by his untimely death, but his work and his style permeates CBER and his legacy will live on in his projects and his students. Our thoughts are with his wife Alanna, his daughter Ottilie and the rest of his family. Messages from around the world have paid tribute not only to his scientific contributions, but also his kindness, generosity of time and spirit, his mischievous sense of humour, and how he inspired so many to pursue careers in conservation. He was the very best of us, and he will be sorely missed by students, staff and friends alike.
Ben’s wife Alanna has set up a JustGiving page in his memory.
Publication date: 21 May 2018
The post-doc will work on a NERC-funded project investigating the global interactions between biodiversity change and agriculture.
Publication date: 11 April 2018
3 PhD positions at UCL-CBER and ZSL-IoZ fully funded by the Marie Curie European Training Network INSPIRE4NATURE
Project 1: This project will investigate the changes in taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity of terrestrial vertebrates under future scenarios of global change. Based at University College London (London, UK) with secondments to the Zoological Society of London (London, UK; 10.8 months)
Publication date: 23 March 2018
Join a unique training programme at the interface between academic excellence and the world of international biodiversity conservation organisations!
Publication date: 16 March 2018
A new study co-authored by GEE's Seirian Sumner investigates an overlooked reason for widespread cooperation amongst animals
Animals living in volatile habitats can gain major evolutionary benefits by shielding their families from the changing environment, suggests research from UCL, the University of Bristol and University of Exeter.
Publication date: 13 March 2018
A new study co-authored by GEE's Professor Tim Blackburn and Dr Ellie Dyer reveals that new alien species invasions are still rising globally
Up to 16% of all species on Earth could qualify as potential alien species and if they invade new regions, impacts will be difficult to predict, according to new research involving UCL.
Publication date: 8 February 2018
Professor Georgina Mace appointed to the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change
Names of the two new Adaptation Sub-Committee appointees were announced by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs on 18 January. Professor Georgina Mace's and Professor Michael Davies’ appointments will run from 31 January 2018 until 1 February 2021. Congratulations!
Publication date: 19 January 2018
We are proud to announce that CBER's bat project at the Olympic Park was featured in the UCL 2034 progress review film. The short video presents highlights of the work UCL has done in the past year towards achieving the goals of our 20-year strategy: UCL 2034.
Publication date: 5 January 2018
Professor Kate Jones, has been recently interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s Curious Cases programme, to help explain how bats echolocate.
Publication date: 20 December 2017
Mammals switched to daytime activity after dinosaur extinction - a new study led by CBER and Tel Aviv University’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History
Mammals only started being active in the daytime after non-avian
dinosaurs were wiped out about 66 million years ago (mya), finds a new
study led by UCL and Tel Aviv University’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural
Publication date: 10 November 2017
Study involving Dr David Redding shows how billions of dollars of financial investment in global conservation has significantly reduced biodiversity loss.
Publication date: 27 October 2017
CBER’s Rory Gibb and Ella Browning (under Kate Jones’ guidance) wrote and provided guidelines for the World Wildlife Fund on best practice on using the audio and camera trap data. This information is crucial for new researchers or external companies who are investing in such technology or using it to make informed decisions with nature at the forefront. Please visit WWF's website for further information.
WWF is the world’s leading independent conservation organisation.
Publication date: 12 October 2017
The Centre for Biodiversity and Environmental Research (CBER) is looking to appoint two Postdoctoral Research Associates, as part of the Sustainable & Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS) project funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Publication date: 10 October 2017
The aim of the Biome Health Research Project is to develop a field-based study system that provides new evidence on how biodiversity responds to human pressures and how conservation interventions can be utilised to reduce the impacts of these pressures.
Publication date: 10 October 2017
This week CBER scientist Dr Seirian Sumner launched The Big Wasp Survey, with Professor Adam Hart from the University of Gloucestershire. Their mission is to harness the power of the public’s dislike of social wasps, in order to sample the populations across the UK. They aim to use the data to answer questions about the distribution and abundance of social wasps across the UK.
Publication date: 13 September 2017
We are pleased to announce Dr Richard Pearson (GEE/CBER) has been awarded British Ecological Society’s 2017 Marsh Award for Climate Change Research. The prize is awarded for an outstanding contribution to climate change research and is open to ecologists from anywhere in the world.
Publication date: 1 September 2017
Ecoacoustic monitoring uses the sounds emitted by wildlife as a proxy measure for biodiversity. Massive volumes of ecoacoustic data can now be generated using passive acoustic recorders, but extracting useful information about the biodiversity sounds recorded in this data is unfeasible without automated methods. Acoustic indices (AIs) are algorithms which generate community-level measures of biodiversity, such as activity, diversity and disturbance, from audio data. However, the suitability of ecoacoustics for monitoring urban biodiversity, and the performance of AIs on the noisy audio data typically generated in cities, is unknown.
Publication date: 17 August 2017
Text and photos by Guilherme B. Ferreira
As an ecologist I’m familiar with the term ‘secondary forest’, but ‘secondary savanna’ is a much more obscure concept. So, how should we name an area of Cerrado – the Brazilian savanna – that has regenerated after clearcut? And more importantly, what’s the biodiversity relevance of these areas of regenerated Cerrado?
The answer to the first question, according to a recent review, is that the secondary concept (as well as the old growth one) should be equally applied to forests, savannas and grasslands. Answering the second question is much trickier, though. The regeneration and succession in Cerrado vegetation has been studied at some locations; in general it follows a path from open to dense vegetation, with an increase in tree and shrub density and a decrease in the herbaceous cover. However, while we have an idea of the differences in vegetation composition and structure between old growth and secondary savanna vegetation in the Cerrado, there is virtually no study comparing the fauna that lives in these two different environments.
To start filling this gap in knowledge we conducted a camera trap survey in a Cerrado protected area harbouring large areas of secondary as well as old growth savanna. Our study area is a perfect site to investigate the effects of secondary savanna on biodiversity because more than 1/3 of its 310 km2 have naturally regenerated after clearcut, while large portions of the state park have been kept in its natural state with little human interference.
Publication date: 21 July 2017
Full shortlist details can be found on the Royal Society for Public Health website.
Publication date: 30 June 2017
The activity of urban bats in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London is being monitored in real-time using new, automated smart detectors that have been developed and installed by UCL and Intel scientists in collaboration with Arup, the Bat Conservation Trust and the London Wildlife Trust.
The story is also featured on BBC News website and BBC Radio.
Publication date: 29 June 2017