By Dr. Chris J. Mortensen, Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Sciences
Never before in our history as a species have we faced the challenges that we face now. The United Nations now estimates a human population of over 10 billion people by the year 21001 that presents many difficulties on multiple fronts.
- Are you aware that many scientists claim that we now are living during the Earth’s sixth mass extinction? Some claim that species loss rates are faster than even when the Tyrannosaurus rex went extinct. 2
- Is animal agriculture sustainable in feeding such a large human population? Recent evidence suggests grazing livestock helps reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint. 3
- Why do some in our society distrust science and scientists? A recent poll found that only 44% view the academic community as trustworthy. 4
- Then since we are in the 21st century, termed the ‘Information Age,’ what affect is that having on students and the classroom? We currently host two live HD web cameras of our animals (see links below) used to teach our students the basics of research.
The Wild Discoveries team is dedicated to bringing the latest information on these topics and more to you in the coming future.
Photo credit: Amy Stuart IFAS
Meet the Team
So what is exactly is “Wild Discoveries,” and what are we about? In 2013, the Wild Discoveries team was formed from the University of Florida (UF) and Santa Fe College (SF) Teaching Zoo, both located in Gainesville, Florida. Each of us is passionate about education, conservation and science. We met to begin collaboration on sharing scientific knowledge amongst our students and the general public.
Wild Discoveries is led by Dr. Chris Mortensen, a faculty member in the Department of Animal Sciences. The team is also comprised of: Dr. Andrew Thoron, faculty member in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication; Jon Miot, the director of the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo; Angie Adkin, a graduate research assistant at the University of Florida; and Danielle Arnold, also a graduate research assistant student at the University of Florida.
What We Do
We are committed on blending science and education, and to speak out on how we as scientists are tackling many issues. For example, Dr. Mortensen, Ms. Adkin and Ms. Arnold are using horses as a model for reproductive studies in endangered species. Dr. Thoron is bringing the latest in educational research from the college to high school classroom. Jon Miot is the director of a world recognized teaching zoo, and serves on the board of species survival plans.
We also are working hard to modernize the classroom and our teaching methods for our students. The Wild Discoveries class is being taught at UF and SF. Similar to the course, our website (www.ufwilddiscoveries.com ) is designed to use animal behavior as a training tool to learn about the basics of science. We will keep updating and adding material to the website in the coming months. For now, you can read more about our students’ findings under the “Current Research” tab on the website or view our live animal cameras at:
Our research goals are supported by the National Science Foundation (grant # 1503322).
- UN News Centre. UN projects world population to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, driven by growth in developing countries. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51526#.VxZJUNQrLcs
- Anthony Barnosky, Nicholas Matzke, Susumu Tomiya et al. 2011. Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature 471:51-57.
- R. Teague, S. Apfelbaum, R. Lal et al. 2016. The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint in North America. J Soil Water Conserv. 71:156164.
- Jude L. Capper, Janeal W. Yancey. Communicating animal science to the general public. Animal Frontiers 5:28-35.