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New Lab of Ornithology chief brings sustainability that unites | Cornell Chronicle

Ian Owens is taking the helm of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at a important second.
Scientists on the Cornell Lab and elsewhere are sounding the warning bell that America’s birds are in disaster. In 2019 they revealed findings within the journal Science displaying North America has misplaced greater than three billion birds since 1970.
“During the last 20 years, by constructing pioneering expertise, citizen science and analysis applications, the Lab put itself within the place to point out the decline in nature in a manner that no one else can do,” Owens says. “The clear problem for the following 20 years, and the massive precedence from the second I am going into the workplace, is to determine how we will change that loss curve. How will we enhance the place for nature?”

Gary Mueller/Macaulay Library at Cornell Lab of Ornithology

In accordance with a 2019 research led by researchers on the Lab of Ornithology, 2.9 billion migratory birds have been misplaced from the U.S. and Canada since 1970, together with 2 in 5 Baltimore orioles.

Owens, who started at Cornell on July 1, brings 25 years of expertise serving as a professor and departmental chair at Imperial School London, and as a director at each the Smithsonian’s Nationwide Museum of Pure Historical past and the Pure Historical past Museum of London. He envisions constructing broad coalitions that unite politicians and authorities with enterprise and trade and an engaged public, as he has previously, and he plans on making sustainability the main target.
“It’s not a zero-sum sport between the atmosphere and humanity,” Owens says.
“You’ll be able to’t anticipate people to cease being modern or to cease needing sources. So it’s more durable than simply defending every part. It’s about defending essentially the most priceless components, after which sustainably utilizing the sources we want. And that’s the place our analysis is available in, understanding the trade-offs and making an attempt to determine the very best choices. As a result of folks need constructive options for environmental sustainability.”
Maybe probably the greatest examples of Owens’ mind-set comes not from birds, however from rocks – and a public-private coalition he helped construct on the Pure Historical past Museum in London.
“We needed to make use of the distinctive attributes of that incredible museum, the gathering, the scientific experience and the general public viewers to make as huge an influence as we might on modern questions going through society,” Owens says.
Throughout his time because the director of science on the London museum, he oversaw a analysis program that used the establishment’s world-leading minerals assortment to sort out the thorny query of tips on how to supply the scarce minerals wanted for smartphones and electrical automobile batteries.
“These sorts of minerals have gotten the brand new petroleum,” Owens says. “However they’re usually not extracted sustainably.”
The London undertaking confirmed how these important parts could possibly be extracted in a extra environmentally pleasant method, utilizing decrease temperatures and pressures.
“The groups labored with a variety of corporations to place this system collectively, and bought funding from the U.Okay. and European governments, which realized that this was a key space for enterprise and the long run,” Owens says. Alongside the best way, he says, authorities and trade turned companions in telling a narrative about tips on how to extract the scarce minerals wanted for the long run within the cleanest manner potential.
Then Owens helped take that story to the general public, he says, utilizing “essentially the most stunning mineral specimens as a centerpiece of the London museum’s newly imagined Hintze Corridor. It was like an artwork set up, however we had been capable of say that this rock right here holds the way forward for future applied sciences.”

Ian Owens/Cornell College

Ian Owens with Sebastian, a rescue Little Owl, whereas volunteering as a youngster at his native chook banding station in Yorkshire, UK.

The kicker, he says, was seeing kids dig into their pockets and marvel at the place the lithium batteries of their smartphones had come from: “The youngsters had been throughout that. I imply, it was a terrific story for the general public.”
Birds, Owens says, have even larger storytelling potential to encourage championing sustainable options. And ornithology is a topic Owens is aware of much more about: He’s an evolutionary biologist who has devoted his analysis profession to the conduct and ecology of birds and making use of information about species range to understanding extinction danger and conservation planning.
“Along with his very sturdy background in analysis, Ian has years of expertise supporting analysis after which bringing it to the general public discussion board,” says Linda Macaulay, chair of the board of administrators on the Cornell Lab. “He’ll proceed this drive to tell and impact consciousness and sustainable change utilizing the instruments and outreach we now have constructed on the Lab.”
Owens factors to the Cornell Lab’s analysis and conservation partnerships with firms,authorities businesses and nonprofit companions as examples of the sorts of sustainability initiatives he desires to develop. The Cornell Lab works with espresso farms in Central and South America on a biodiversity conservation initiative with Nespresso. And just lately the Walmart Basis awarded the Cornell Lab and the Cornell Atkinson Heart for Sustainability a grant to check how the Lab’s intensive chook information can be utilized to higher perceive and monitor pollinator well being.
“When each farmers and Fortune World 500 executives are enthusiastic about working with the Cornell Lab and Cornell Atkinson to boost the sustainability of worldwide provide traces, that’s when you recognize you’re doing one thing worthwhile,” Owens says.
A key to doing much more with extra companions shall be deepening the Lab’s relationship with colleagues and groups throughout its house within the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and elsewhere at Cornell.
“There’s a transparent urge for food and ambition for Cornell to make an actual distinction with respect to sustainable agriculture and pure methods,” Owens says. “I believe we will work with companions throughout the college to determine new methods to measure biodiversity in agricultural landscapes and determine practices that promote wholesome ecosystems.”
Owens says he sees additional potential for the Lab to work with researchers in different disciplines at Cornell on joint synthetic intelligence initiatives, constructing off the Lab’s machine studying successes. They embody innovating chook migration prediction fashions utilizing climate radar, utilizing machine studying to foretell the prime nights for “lights out” initiatives in huge cities to minimize building-collision dangers for birds, and inventing computer-hearing expertise that may determine birds by their songs utilizing automated audio recorders or perhaps a smartphone.
“Synthetic intelligence is clearly an enormous precedence for Cornell, and it’s a game-changing expertise for the Lab of Ornithology, too,” Owens says.
One other fast precedence, Owens says, shall be advancing range, fairness and inclusion within the Lab’s tradition and work, together with range amongst its staff and the communities of people that work together with the Lab to take pleasure in, find out about, and defend birds and nature.
As a result of the Lab is basically based mostly on analysis and information, Owens says it could possibly lower by way of politics and construct a broad coalition for shielding and enhancing nature alongside human actions.
“Humanity has confirmed that we’re able to attaining extremely audacious targets,” Owens says. “Take a look at what’s occurred within the final yr with respect to COVID-19. We are able to do superb issues once we work collectively and harness human ingenuity.”
Owens has now taken the baton from his predecessor, John Fitzpatrick, who retired because the Lab’s director after 26 years of management. He’s excited by the problem forward.
“I imagine that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, with our science and our analysis and our expertise and our storytelling, could be that power for utilizing birds to construct goodwill for nature, for finally bending that loss curve,” Owens says. “I do know we will do it, and I can’t wait to get began.”
Gustave Axelson is editorial director on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Residing Chicken journal.
New Lab of Ornithology chief brings sustainability that unites

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