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Darwin Day 2024

February 12, 2024

Dear friends,

Happy Darwin Day!

In recent years, BSCS has chosen to celebrate the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth by sharing stories of inspiring scientists from around the world. This year, we are shining the spotlight on a scientist who is close to home: Dr. Rodolfo Dirzo, a dedicated member of the BSCS board of directors and the Bing professor in environmental science at Stanford University.

Born in Mexico, Rodolfo conducts research on species interactions in Latin America and other tropical ecosystems. He teaches ecology, natural history, conservation biology, and bio-cultural diversity, subjects that he realizes are best learned outside the classroom. In fact he’s well known for a summer program in which he takes undergraduate students to Oaxaca, Mexico.

In Oaxaca, students discover significant threats to life and humanity.

Rodolfo explains, “We are facing a crisis–the dramatic loss of biological richness and the declining appreciation of the diversity of cultures. In this course, we examine how beautifully biological and cultural diversity interact and co-evolve together to create bio-cultural diversity. It is critical to recognize that both elements are essential and linked if we aspire to have a more sustainable world.”

Oaxaca is home to at least nine ethnic and cultural groups, and Rodolfo has designed his program to enable students to learn about traditional ecological knowledge and land conservation firsthand by engaging directly with Oaxacan people.

Their exploration begins in an open-air market, lined with an exceptionally wide range of medicinal plants, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Most of these crops originated in Mexico and were provided by local farmers and gatherers. Students collect data on the supply and demand and see how much more diverse these markets are than those in other parts of the world.

They realize they are seeing Oaxaca’s bio-cultural diversity. And it’s only the first of many meaningful experiences they’ll share with the Indigenous people of Oaxaca that summer. Check out this article for more insight into these experiences!

Rodolfo has a deep appreciation for the regions of the world where Indigenous peoples and biological richness coincide and coevolve. His motivation to study and protect life and humanity inspires a new group of students each year. And it inspires us at BSCS. We are also grateful for his contributions to BSCS as a member of our board and an advisor on curriculum development.


Daniel Edelson signature

Daniel C. Edelson
BSCS Executive Director