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Media Advisory 14-008

NSF Google Hangout for Earth Day: Surprising benefits and myths of biodiversity

April 17 Hangout will provide grist for science, environmental and business journalists generating Earth Day stories and will engage the public, researchers, students and teachers

various marine organisms and the text photogallery

A slideshow on how biodiversity boosts the economy.

April 15, 2014

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

On Earth Day and every day, our planet's high extinction rate begs the question: Why does humanity need the Earth's great variety of plants, animals and microorganisms--its biodiversity?

What: A Google+ Hangout sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Subject: Experts will discuss the benefits of biodiversity--which benefits have been scientifically tested and which have yet to be tested; how biodiversity boosts scientific and engineering innovation; and how researchers are measuring biodiversity in the face of environmental change.

When: April 17, 2014 at 3 p.m. EDT. (An archived version of the Hangout will be posted on YouTube after the event.)

How to watch live and participate: Watch the Hangout on Google+ or YouTube. You are invited to submit questions before and during the Hangout via Twitter using #NSFLive, or via email at

Potential discussion topics:

  • What are some common myths about the benefits of biodiversity?
  • How does biodiversity affect the well-being of humanity?
  • How do economists estimate the value of healthy, diverse ecosystems?
  • Why should we conserve even seemingly useless organisms that live in remote, uninhabited areas?
  • How have studies of biodiversity serendipitously catapulted forward varied fields, from neuroscience to crime-busting?
  • How are studies of animals and insects advancing the growing field of bio-inspired robotics--"the next wave" of robotics? And why do engineers need biological studies of animals to develop bio-inspired robots?
  • How can global losses of biodiversity be stopped or reduced?
  • Can the biodiversity of damaged ecosystems be restored?
  • How much biodiversity does an ecosystem need in order to stay healthy and provide services?
  • How are scientists analyzing the impacts of major threats, such as climate change, on biodiversity?
  • What new tools or approaches are being used to measure biodiversity?

Guest panelists:

  • Ed Boyden of MIT: A neuroscientist and expert on how studies of biodiversity have helped generate revolutionary new research tools.
  • Bradley Cardinale of the University of Michigan: An expert on the impacts of humans on biodiversity and ecosystem health, and on how losses of biodiversity may impact ecological processes.
  • Sarah Bergbreiter of the University of Maryland: An expert in insect-inspired robotics.
  • Steve Polasky of the University of Minnesota: An expert on integrating ecological and economic analyses, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services.
  • Elizabeth Blood of NSF: NSF's program director of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)--a massive, nationwide infrastructure that will collect precedent-setting long-term data on U.S. biodiversity.

Who may attend: Reporters, the public, researchers, students and teachers of all levels and any other interested individuals.

For interviews: Before or after the Hangout, reporters may arrange interviews with experts by contacting Lily Whiteman at or (703) 292-8310.


Media Contacts
Lily Whiteman, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8310, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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