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International Biodiversity Summit for Youth


Earth Summit for Youth on Global Biodiversity set for Jan. 16-29

High School Students From Nine Countries Meet at UCR-Supported Tropical Reserve
To do Research, Draft Earth Day Agreement to Present to U.N.

(January 7, 2005)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — www.ucr.edu — High school students from the U.S. will join counterparts from eight other nations for a youth summit on biodiversity at the El Edén Ecological Reserve on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. Scientists and high school students have been conducting research together there for the past decade.

The Earth Summit for Youth on Global Biodiversity is scheduled for Jan. 16 through Jan. 29 and its goal is to promote the creation of additional project sites doing biodiversity research and to enhance biodiversity as a central topic of biological education. About 60 students from Mexico; India; Germany; France; Italy; Puerto Rico; Saba, Netherlands Antilles; and the U.S. are expected to attend. The students will issue an agreement on biodiversity that will be presented to the United Nations on Earth Day, April 22.

El Edén was chosen for the more than 10 years of scientific investigation and for the enthusiastic response and participation of students from Souheagan High School in Amherst, New Hampshire. El Edén Ecological Reserve is administered by the Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales (CITRO) of the Universidad Veracruzana, which conducts research in partnership with UC Riverside.

The principal organizing institutions include the Smithsonian Institution, Amigos de Sian Ka’an, UNESCO BioReserve, El Edén Ecological Reserve and HabitatNet/Souhegan High School.

In addition to participants’ opportunities to immerse themselves in cultural and academic exchange during the symposium, students will be involved in a collective exercise to develop and draft a Global Youth Agreement on Biodiversity. The agreement, a concrete proposal about the study and stewardship of natural resources, will be brought before the United Nations during Earth Day celebrations on April 22, 2005. The agreement will promote the creation of other sites like El Edén, emphasize biodiversity as a central theme of education in the natural sciences, and establish an international network of high school-age biodiversity researchers.

Daniel J. Bisaccio, a teacher at Souhegan High School and founder of the school’s biodiversity project, HabitatNet, developed the idea of the symposium as an outgrowth of the pilot project at the El Edén Ecological Reserve. Bisaccio has developed an educational focus since 1995, which has generated great interest in different sectors of the educational world. Students’ contact and direct field experience through HabitatNet permits them to learn about, and contribute to, the conservation of biological resources. HabitatNet has attracted hundreds of students and teachers — as observers and participants — to El Edén to learn more about Bisaccio’s approach and to participate in the world network of young biodiversity researchers.

“The power of this project is that it is a grassroots project, which means it can and needs to be replicated for several reasons,” Bisaccio said. “It gives young students an opportunity to collaborate with peers from around the world who are equally committed to global conservation. Young students will learn that they have a strong voice and can inform the world why we need to conserve biodiversity for their future, and working with committed scientists allows students to have powerful and positive role models.”

The research at El Edén has been supported by the UCR Center for Conservation Biology, the UC Office of the President and by UC MEXUS, based at UC Riverside. Scientists and students from UC Riverside have been key to the success of HabitatNet. Results from its studies were recently published in the book “The Lowland Maya Area: Three Millennia at the Human-Wildland Interface,” edited by three professors and a former graduate student from UC Riverside. One of the chapters, written by Dan Bisaccio, describes the HabitatNet project.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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