News and Notes

Places and Voices of America the Beautiful: Cities and Biodiversity

The Half-Earth Project® presents “Places and Voices of America the Beautiful: Cities and Biodiversity” featuring, Myriam Dondzina, Amy Rosenthal, Deja Perkins, and Robert McDonald on May 20th, 12 pm EDT. The discussion is free and open to the public with registration. Register here.

Cities and the concentrated development and habitation they entail can give rise to heat islands, food deserts, stark inequities, degraded habitat and other inhospitable dynamics for life. They can also, with cutting-edge planning and commitment to inclusivity and communities, nurture wild species, including against the impacts of climate change. The UN estimates that by 2030, cities will be home to 60% of Earth’s population. Meanwhile, they support surprising levels of biodiversity—research indicates as much as 20% of avian species may be captured by cities. As both centers of influence as well as impacts, cities matter for nature, and nature matters for cities.

Against the backdrop of the current push for 30×30, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation is convening ambassadors of conservation in American cities for a conversation on the opportunities and challenges in trying to help nature and people thrive together with equity and inclusion in these spaces. This talk moderated by Joel R. Johnson is the third in the series focused on areas of great biodiversity and the pathways and people essential to protecting them. We will start at the neighborhood level – how biodiversity data and citizen science, the zoom out to the city level to explore the work of the Chicago Wilderness, and then to a national scales in the Cities Network program of The Nature Conservancy, all informed by science, community-led, evidence-based approaches to biodiversity monitoring and conservation.

  • Myriam Dondzina – Deputy Director, The Nature Conservancy Cities Network
  • Deja Perkins – Geospatial Analytics PhD Student, Center for Geospatial Analytics, North Carolina State University
  • Amy Rosenthal – Director of the Keller Science Action Center, Field Museum; steering committee member, Chicago Wilderness
  • Robert McDonald – Lead Scientist for Nature-Based Solutions, The Nature Conservancy

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Myriam Dondzina – Deputy Director, The Nature Conservancy Cities Network

Myriam Dondzina is a passionate conservationist who works to protect ecologically significant landscapes while creating opportunities for people to improve their lives. Myriam currently serves as the Deputy Cities Network Director for the Nature Conservancy. This Network spans 20+ Cities across the U.S. and supports 56+ embedded employees working on over 150 projects in collaborations with hundreds of external partners. She has served in various capacities during her almost 8 years at The Nature Conservancy, leading stewardship through volunteerism in Georgia, developing the Atlanta Cities program, and as the Community Engagement Strategist for the Cities Network. She has 20+ years working in grassroots and community-based organizations in the US and has spent many years working with conservation and social organizations in Brazil. Prior to her work at TNC, she worked as the Food Security Manager at the Clarkston Community Center and as the Youth Programs Manager at the Wylde Center.  While completing her Masters in Development Practice at Emory University, she filmed a documentary about social organizing within riverside communities in Amapa, Brazil and also conducted a baseline measurement of pesticide use by small-holder farmers in lands adjacent to a mountainous preserve in Rio de Janeiro, Serra dos Orgaos.

Deja Perkins – Geospatial Analytics PhD Student, Center for Geospatial Analytics, North Carolina State University

Deja Perkins is a PhD student in Geospatial Analytics at the Center for Geospatial Analytics at North Carolina State University. With a background in urban ecology, Deja currently investigates data gaps of large scale participatory science datasets within cities.  Deja Perkins is an advocate for people exploring nature in their neighborhoods, and using citizen science to learn about science and nature. While her research interests primarily center on urban bird ecology, she explores the connections between citizen science, birding as a recreational hobby, and environmental injustice in the form of greenspace/nature access and joy in the outdoors. Originally from Chicago, she has seen first hand how access to nature and exposure to wildlife and environmental programs can differ in different parts of the city, specifically within minority neighborhoods, which drives her belief that location matters, even within the city.

Deja is a graduate of both Tuskegee University’s Environmental Science and Natural Resources 3+1 program, and North Carolina State University’s Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation Biology Master of Science program. During her time at NCSU, she was a part of the Reconciliation Ecology Lab, Public Science Cluster and a USGS Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center Global Change Fellow.  She believes that by exposing people, especially Black youth and young adults, to the natural sciences and the wonders of the outdoors, it will encourage them to pursue natural science careers, enjoy outdoor activities and become stewards of the environment.

Amy Rosenthal – Director of the Keller Science Action Center, Field Museum; steering committee member, Chicago Wilderness

Amy Rosenthal is the Rowe Family Director of the Keller Science Action Center at the Field Museum in Chicago, where she leads an interdisciplinary team of scientists and museum professionals to translate museum science into results for conservation and community well-being. Over the past 15 years, Amy has worked with universities, non-profits, and foundations to develop resilient, community-centered strategies for environmental conservation, with a focus on urban ecosystems, the Amazon rainforest and the Caribbean coast. Most recently, she was a program officer for Conservation & Sustainable Development at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Amy holds a M.A. from Stanford University and a B.A. from Amherst College. She serves on the steering committee for the Chicago Wilderness alliance and as a board member of the Amazon Conservation Association. 

Robert McDonald – Lead Scientist for Nature-Based Solutions, The Nature Conservancy

Dr. Robert McDonald is Lead Scientist for the Nature-Based Solutions at The Nature Conservancy. He researches the impact and dependencies of cities on the natural world, and helps direct the science behind much of the Conservancy’s urban conservation work. He holds a PhD in Ecology from Duke University and has published more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, and a recent book, entitled Conservation for Cities (Island Press) which documents the role green infrastructure can play in the well-being of urban residents.

Prior to joining the Conservancy, Rob was a Smith Conservation Biology Fellow at Harvard University, studying the impact global urban growth will have on biodiversity and conservation. He also taught landscape ecology at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, helping architects and planners incorporate ecological principles into their projects. He holds a B.S. degree in biology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

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