Hi Reddit! We are Rikki and James.
Working in wildlife conservation is an incredibly varied job. One day you are coding to predict catastrophic extinctions, and another you’re getting chased by rhinos, searching for crocodiles, or training villagers in conservation to protect local endangered species.
Our research focuses on the conservation of the tree of life and addressing the huge amounts of evolutionary history that are under threat from human activity.
Ask us Anything! We’ll be live answering your questions 4-6 PM UK time / 11am-1pm Eastern time
Evolutionary history is a measure of how genetically distinct a species is. Those with large amounts of unique evolutionary history often have little to no close living relatives. They are often ‘alone’ on their branch of the evolutionary tree of life.
However, this way of categorising species is not just a novel feature of their genetic past. It can determine species’ vulnerability to population loss today, and tell us what their extinction might mean for the ecosystems they inhabit. Also, the greater the diversity of the tree of life, the more it tends to benefit humanity.
As a result, evolutionary history has become a handy tool for conversation prioritisation. Previously unheralded species like Pangolins and Tapirs are being highlighted for protection due to their unique importance to their fragile ecosystems.
But how can we better quantify the tree of life and measure the number of evolutionary years threatened by the impact of human activity? In 2007, the “EDGE of Existence” programme was launched to do just this and identify some of the most under-threat species. As part of this programme, our team work on “EDGE lists” to identify key species, and then work with conservationists to implement conservation action.
During this AMA we’d be happy to discuss biodiversity loss, conversation prioritisation, our collective experiences working in the field and with local communities, and also, what we all, as individuals, can do to protect these valuable species through our own daily lives and consumer choices.
- Homepage of the EDGE of Existence programme – https://www.edgeofexistence.org/
- Recent news story on evolutionary history in conservation from the EDGE of Existence programme – https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/197797/50-billion-years-evolutionary-history-threatened/
- Online explorer for the complete tree of life with threatened species highlighted www.onezoom.org
- Dr Rikki Gumbs academic homepage – https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/r.gumbs
- Dr James Rosindell academic homepage – https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/j.rosindell
Ask us anything and we look forward to answering your questions live 4-6 PM BST.