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"Restore the Wild: A Singular Uniting Agenda for Ecologists amidst an Ecological Crisis?," Kai Chan, professor and Canada Research Chair, University of British Columbia.

This event is part of the University's Signature Lecture Series.

Abstract: If ecologists lived in a world of wounds in Aldo Leopold’s time, where are we today? Fighting on a thousand fronts to stem the loss of biodiversity from ecosystems everywhere, but clinging to ideas of wildness that find no purchase where most people live. The idea of rewilding, understood popularly as restoring the wild, was unleashed by ecologists with dreams of woolly mammoths and sabre-tooth cats. Yet when this idea unleashed myriad community efforts to restore ecological interactions including with humans, ecologists reasserted a narrow focus on prospective wilderness. In this talk, I’ll argue that we ecologists should double-down on efforts to restore coevolved communities including megaherbivores, using the example of kelp forests, sea otters, and sea cows. But I’ll also argue that we should pursue rewilding in cities, where it might mean eliminating food subsidies for the many scavengers that are also nest predators, and diversifying the homogenous habitats like monoculture lawns where crows and other generalists thrive. I’ll wrap up by wondering if what 21st century ecology needs is a single uniting agenda to restore ecological interactions everywhere—to restore the wild.

Honoring the late Eugene P. Odum, founder of the Odum School of Ecology, the annual Eugene P. Odum Lecture Series features speakers addressing significant ecological questions in broad social and intellectual contexts. The lecture is free and open to the public.

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