The State of Biodiversity

Thank you for being a part of the 2022 Symposium.

You can watch a recording of the talk above. Please note, the recording does not include Q&A.

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Social inequality affects our regional biodiversity.

Drive across any major city (including San Diego) and you’ll notice some neighborhoods have more trees, greener parks, and bigger yards. Often, these are the markers of social inequity, with wealthier neighborhoods awash with shade and less affluent neighborhoods sliced up by freeways. The impact of this extends beyond people, with profound consequences for the wildlife within cities.

Which features of a city impact animal persistence and evolution? How do economic and social differences across our neighborhoods impact urban biodiversity? And why are coyotes an excellent species model to address these questions?

At this year’s State of Biodiversity, we looked at how social issues, especially economic and racial inequities, shape the ecology and evolution of wildlife—particularly in mammals and carnivores. Social heterogeneity plays a pivotal role in shaping the ability of cities to support biodiversity. Thus, using a social-ecological and environmental justice lens is critical for climate and wildlife resilience in a human-dominated world.

A dynamic speaker who often draws upon pop-culture references and his own lived experiences, Dr. Chris Schell led the conversation.

Chris Schell, Ph.D.

Dr. Chris Schell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at UC Berkeley, where he studies the intersections of society, ecology, and evolution to understand how wildlife (mainly mammalian carnivores) are rapidly adapting to life in cities. The Schell lab combines behavioral, physiological, and genomic approaches to demonstrate how historical and contemporary inequities influence the organismal biology and community dynamics of urban mammals. In addition, Chris and the lab explore how this wildlife adaptation, combined with human perceptions, creates landscapes of risk that contribute to human-carnivore conflict.

This interdisciplinary work requires integrating principles from the natural sciences with urban studies to address how systemic racism and oppression affect urban ecosystems, while simultaneously highlighting the need to integrate environmental justice, civil rights, and equity as the bedrock of biological conservation and our fight against the climate crisis. Hence, he often works closely with underrepresented communities, wildlife managers, cultural institutions, and philanthropic organizations to help foster mutually enriching relationships among people and wildlife.

Want more State of Biodiversity?

This annual event brings together conservationists, land managers, scientists, and natural history nerds for in-depth conversations about our current ecological condition and what’s to come.

Este evento anual reúne a conservacionistas, administradores de tierras, científicos, y aficionados de historia natural para conversar sobre nuestra condición ecológica actual y lo que está por venir.