Berkeley Talks: Finding hope for biodiversity conservation

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frog sits on a rock, its body half submerged in water

In this talk, evolutionary biologist and UC Berkeley professor Erica Bree Rosenblum discusses how populations of the mountain yellow-legged frog, a species found in the Sierra Nevada in California, crashed after being infected by a highly virulent form of fungus two decades ago. But, after years of conservation efforts, the frogs have been making a comeback. (Photo by Eric Sonstroem via Flickr)

In episode 126 of Berkeley Talks, evolutionary biologist Erica Bree Rosenblum, a professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, tells a story about when she held a little frog — the last known member of its species — in her hand as it died.

erica bree rosenblum smiles and holds a frog

Erica Bree Rosenblum is an associate professor of global change biology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. (UC Berkeley photo)

“I am a scientist who studies extinction,” says Rosenblum. “I am a scientist who thinks about biodiversity and interconnectedness every single day … but the difference between thinking about it and feeling a life slipping away in my hand and knowing that it was the last of an entire branch of the biodiversity on our planet was emotionally impactful in a way that I never could have expected.”

In that moment, she says, she woke up to how hard it is to feel interconnectedness for students in society, even if we know it to be true. In this talk, Rosenblum explores why we keep this feeling of connection at arm’s length and how we can begin to cultivate it in our lives.

“We don’t exist without the rest of the tree of life,” says Rosenblum. “We just don’t exist. We like to pretend that we are one species and we do it all ourselves, but we don’t exist without that connection.”

This talk was given on Oct. 8 and was sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Osher Lifelong Learning Center (OLLI)

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