• Lush vegetation on the top of Spectacle Island's North drumlin dominates the foreground. Boston's skyline can be seen in the distance.  The park's logo with tag line minutes away, worlds apart empashises the stark contrast between the city and islands.

    Boston Harbor Islands

    National Recreation Area Massachusetts

Biodiversity Discovery on the Boston Harbor Islands and Beyond

Brian Farrell
Museum of Comparative Zoology
Harvard University
26 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 496-1057
e-mail author

 

Delivered at the 2011 Boston Harbor Islands Science Symposium


There are almost no places on earth where all of the species are known, and fewer still where educational tools allow scientists, educators, students and other citizens to tell one species from another. While a complete inventory of earth would cost less than one Apollo mission, support for even local biological surveys is extremely limited. Citizens, scientists, parks, universities and museums can form a pyramid of mutual support where the process of discovery and documentation builds human resource capacity and helps in the production of biological information.

Islands are obvious places to catalyze such a process of discovery and documentation because of their intrinsic biogeographic interest and because their well-defined boundaries provide focus. Whether they be traditionally surrounded by water or garden islands of green in otherwise urban settings, all islands provide contexts for accomplishing manageable and comparative studies. Even close to a city, islands can harbor new species or invaders and bring new attention to the the need for documenting the natural world around us. Insects are apt subjects over which students from kindergarten to college can learn to investigate questions in the process of discovery and documentation of this little-known microwilderness.

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