The new IBioS Collaboratory is an innovation incubator that brings together researchers from multiple disciplines.
Biological diversity in Canada is facing pressures unseen for millennia. According to the Canadian Species Index, between 1970 and 2016, vertebrates known and monitored by the federal government decreased by 4%. Within this category, monitored fish and mammal species declined by an average of 21% and 42%, respectively. These represent only a fraction of species loss in the Canadian wilderness.
At its inception in June 2003, the Canadian Species at Risk Act (SARA) listed 233 species at risk. As of December 31, 2021, that number has jumped to 640 species at risk, according to the 2021 SARA Annual Report to Parliament.
Biodiversity loss is not only a concern for species in decline, it inflicts collateral damage to many other species within habitats and ecosystems. For example, declines in salmon populations reduce a food source for many predators and human communities. This, in turn, decreases the availability of nutrients that benefit trees and other plant and animal life deposited via predator feces.
Addressing the decline in biodiversity involves conducting research into novel conservation approaches, as well as taking science-based actions to preserve biodiversity in the coming years.
IBioS’s solutions-based, cross-disciplinary approach
The Interdisciplinary Biodiversity Solutions (IBioS) Collaboratory is a cross-disciplinary, UBC consortium formed to address the challenges facing biodiversity loss. It aims to devise innovative solutions that draw on bright minds from various faculties, departments and disciplines across UBC, including the Faculty of Forestry. Its approach combines research and training to co-develop world-class studies, co-advise students, produce policy-relevant solutions and engage with communities, all levels of government and other academic institutions to protect biodiversity for future generations.
“The big picture goal for IBioS is to have meaningful impact related to the conservation of biodiversity,” says IBioS member and Asst. Prof. Alex Moore who is cross-appointed to UBC Forestry’s Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences and the Department of Botany in the Faculty of Science. “IBioS recognizes the need to leverage different knowledge systems to achieve meaningful change in this area.”
Launched in 2020, IBioS members’ UBC cross-appointments range from Geography to the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, Forestry, Botany, Zoology and the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, to name a few.
“We are all committed to working together, starting with building rapport and community before co-launching research projects,” explains Asst. Prof. Juliet Lu, an IBioS member cross-appointed to UBC Forestry’s Department of Forest Resources Management and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs in the Faculty of Arts. Juliet’s research background includes political ecology with a focus on the implications of China’s investments in resources.
By sharing insights from their specializations, group members enrich each other’s knowledge base, filling in blanks and deepening perspectives and understanding, says Juliet.
Before attending the 2022 Convention on Biological Diversity co-hosted by China and Montreal, Juliet spoke with IBioS members to get more background information that could help her maximize her experience. “Many IBioS members have conducted long-term research on the subject, so I went to them to get their perspectives, and then shared some of the knowledge that I’d gained from the Convention with groups members afterwards.”
“We need to recognize the value of the unique skills and experiences of each person and their discipline within the unit,” Alex adds. “Even though my background is largely in the natural sciences, my value is not more or less than anyone else’s who maybe comes from a social sciences or humanities background.”
In the coming years, IBioS will begin the important work of pursuing impact- and solutions-oriented research on how to protect species that are not only important for ecosystem health, but for human health and wellbeing.
The group expects to produce traditional academic outputs, “but, most importantly, it will aim to move the biodiversity conservation needle forward,” Alex notes. “IBioS collaborators are looking for novel approaches that will have a meaningful impact in real-world settings to prevent further species and habitat loss.”
This article was originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Branchlines Magazine. View the full issue here.