March 5, 2013 Marine Biodiversity

Science Pub RVA #8

What has Marine Biodiversity Done For You Lately?  Why bugs and slugs are important.

Of the many changes underway in the world, one of the most striking is the decline of wildlife on land and sea, particularly the variety of animals and plants. Why should we care? Of several possible answers, one of the least appreciated is that the variety of life—that is, biological diversity—is of central importance to the healthy functioning of the world’s ecosystems and the ‘natural services’ they provide to humanity. These include fisheries and other wild food production, waste disposal, and a clean water supply. But it’s not just tunas and oysters that provide for us. Sustaining nature’s services depends on a complex web of interacting parts, and even lowly bugs and slugs can play important roles. Dr. Duffy reviewed some of the latest scientific evidence that biodiversity is not just a pretty face, but is essential to human well-being and preserves society’s options in a rapidly changing environment.

J. Emmett Duffy, PhDVirginia Institute of Marine ScienceCollege of William & Mary
J. Emmett Duffy, PhD Virginia Institute of Marine Science College of William & Mary
J. Emmett Duffy, PhD
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
College of William & Mary
J. Emmett Duffy is an ecologist with expertise in marine biological diversity—from evolutionary origins, through the interactions among species and environment that maintain diverse ecosystems, to understanding how and why biodiversity is important to human society

Dr. Duffy’s long-term research addresses how environmental change affects the complex interactions among marine animals and plants, and how these translate into the natural services humanity depends on. He founded and currently leads the global Zostera Experimental Network, funded by the National Science Foundation and involving seven countries, exploring how nutrient pollution and altered food-webs influence the world’s economically important but threatened seagrass meadows.

Dr. Duffy is also known for his ground-breaking discovery of advanced social colonies in tropical shrimp, for which he was awarded Japan’s inaugural Kobe Prize in Marine Biology in 2011. He is the author of over 100 articles and an edited volume on crustacean social biology, and his research has been featured in the BBC’s Blue Planet series, in textbooks, and in media outlets worldwide. He was awarded an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship in 2006, and has since co-led major synthetic efforts to put biodiversity science to work in informing public policy and education/awareness. These include a 2012 international consensus document in Nature linking biodiversity to ecosystem health, the first ever inclusion of ocean ecosystems in the quadrennial US National Climate Assessment, and an interagency group envisioning a national marine biodiversity observation network.

Dr. Duffy holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has held research fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution and the University of California, Davis.  He is currently the Loretta and Lewis Glucksman Professor of Marine Science and head of the Marine Biodiversity Lab at the College of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science, where he has taught since 1994. He blogs on ocean-related topics at www/