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Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Anthropocene and the FSMLs: "Science" editorial

Sitting at the interface of human societies and the natural environment are sentinels tracking environmental change. Across the globe, field stations and marine laboratories (FSMLs) amass crucial information about climate, biodiversity, environmental health, and emerging diseases, anchoring multidecadal data sets needed to solve environmental challenges of the Anthropocene. These observatories are now in danger of being shut down—part of the collateral damage of the COVID-19 pandemic…

As Earth's population swells to 8 billion, understanding and predicting human impacts on the planet become ever more urgent. Both long-term and real-time data are needed to quantify the repercussions of deforestation, agricultural intensification, desertification, climate change, ocean acidification, and other stresses if we are to mitigate their effects, plan adaptive responses, and develop national and international policies. Nature's struggles are humanity's struggles: As biodiversity is lost and ecosystems erode, so will the quality of our air, waters, and soils. This degradation will also affect the essential ecosystem services that nature consistently provides. Crop pollination services alone are estimated as a $500 billion annual benefit for society. And emerging pathogens will continue to be a threat across all borders. Environmental data to guide sound, science-based solutions, and broader public understanding and engagement, are necessary to overcome these mounting environmental challenges.

FSMLs are essential for educating and training the next generation of scientists. Immersive in situ experiences are foundational to those seeking careers in biology and ecology, geology and soil science, oceanography, hydrology and limnology, meteorology, conservation, and resource management. Evidence shows that field courses close demographic gaps in science participation and persistence and improve diversity across disciplines. Virtual materials and live-stream research-based field experiences simply cannot supplant place-based learning, curiosity-driven exploration, the life-changing value of discovery, and the realization that Earth is still a little-known planet. Furthermore, FSMLs play a broader role in education. Field course alumni become educators and school administrators, or pursue careers in medicine, law, social services, and business, among other professions. Scientists and nonscientists alike take away a deeper understanding and appreciation for nature and a propensity to embrace an ethic of planetary stewardship…   

The pandemic has cut revenue streams to FSMLs for a second year. At a time when environmental issues demand even greater attention, the world cannot risk undermining their contributions to scientific literacy, environmental research, and student training—all of which are essential to protect Earth's bountiful natural heritage and life-sustaining ecosystems. Universities, governments, and other organizations must find ways to save these global sentinels—all life depends on them...
Science Magazine
apropos of my prior post.


Unreal. Far too real.

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