Discussing nature conservation in China
May 8, 2015
Joining colleagues and conservationists from around the world, Dr. Stephen Lougheed (Biology and Environmental Studies) recently traveled to China to deliver public talks for Shanghai International Nature Conservation Week and the grand opening of the Shanghai Museum of Natural History.
In collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) office in Shanghai, Dr. Lougheed, who hold the Baillie Family Chair in Conservation Biology, spent two weeks in April speaking to audiences about the importance of nature conservation and shared insights on Canadian biological diversity. Along with China’s rapid economic development, Dr. Lougheed says there’s a burgeoning interest in environmental protection and research.
“While we don’t have near the environmental challenges that China has, I spoke to issues facing the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system and particularly beluga whales, the challenges of conserving migratory songbirds, and about my own research on endangered snakes and how wetland loss and fragmentation has affected them,” he says.
Dr. Lougheed, corrected some misperceptions of the Great White North as well.
“I tried to dispel notions about Canada as being exclusively pristine wilderness or that our comparatively small human population has had negligible impacts on the environment. I did speak about iconic animals like moose, polar bears, and loons, and the issues they may face from climate change and other environmental impacts.”
The first major event of Shanghai’s international conservation week was a celebrity forum for the opening of the Shanghai Museum of Natural History, where Dr. Lougheed spoke about the key role that museums have in educating the public and fostering research. While most of the speakers were academics or museum curators, Dr. Lougheed was joined by Chinese basketball star Yao Ming who spoke about his conservation work. Mr. Ming has become a passionate advocate for protection of African wildlife, and spoke about his global campaign against the poaching of elephants and the profoundly harmful impacts of the ivory trade.
Along with speaking to the public about conservation, Dr. Lougheed also visited a number of universities in Beijing and Shanghai with his Queen’s colleague Yuxiang Wang. Seeking to deepen connections to partner institutions like Beijing Normal University, Fudan University, and Tongji University, Dr. Lougheed gave research lectures, and met with administrators, researchers, and students, including undergraduates who will participate in a Queen’s-China field course this July, and other students who will be part of the inaugural Queen’s-Tongji 2+2 Environmental Studies class this fall.
“China has hundreds of universities and an increasingly well-funded science system. We are hoping to forge greater ties with these universities for research collaboration, student exchanges, and other connections.”
One of the most memorable moments of his trip though, came from something unexpected. From a window of Dr. Lougheed’s hotel room in the ancient city of Xi’an, he had a clear view of a small green space. Untended, the grass and trees were overgrown and the pond at the centre had turned from a clear blue to a cloudy, algal green.
“Around the pond there were all sorts of bird species present, doves, swallows, bulbuls, and an egret. It reminded me that little green spaces, even unintentional, can house remarkable biodiversity. Little things can have significant positive consequences.”