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FROM THE DIRECTOR / February 2022

By on February 28, 2022 in Featured, News, Newsletter

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of E.O. Wilson on December 26, 2021 at the ripe old age of 92 years. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to interact with Ed occasionally over the years. 

In the many eulogies to this remarkable man’s life, most detailed the fishing accident that impaired his vision at a young age and led him to the study of ants and other invertebrates; known to Ed as “the little things that run the World.” (Conservation Biology, Vol. 1., No. 4 (Dec. 1987) pp. 344-346). However, I don’t think it would have mattered what Ed focused on, as an inveterate connector and synthesizer many view him as a modern-day Darwin 

For instance, his seminal book The Theory of Island Biogeography with Robert MacArthur is the foundation of both landscape ecology and conservation biology as fields of study and planning. Those fields now guide global conservation efforts. 

Ed’s development on the theory of sociobiology has created new ways of looking at the genetic basis and biological benefits of social behaviors. These theories were so controversial that when I took Sociobiology as an undergraduate, the course was omitted from the class catalogue to avoid demonstrations! One Ojai Valley example of a species who change their behavior to enhance their fitness as a species are acorn woodpeckers. Their young “help” at the nest to raise their brothers and sisters rather than establishing new territories. This strategy is known as “kin selection.” 

Few academics could slip as effectively between science and advocacy as Ed did. For instance, Ed’s writing was alternately academic and suited for the lay reader. He won two Pulitzers! 

He also became the leading voice for biodiversity conservation globally. I participated with Ed on some of the first “Biodiversity Days” in Massachusetts where experts and amateur volunteers would set out to document the breadth of species diversity over a single day or weekend. I will always remember his joy and wonder in showing us a large colony of Allegheny mound building ants. 

Ed’s eloquent call to conserve one half of the Earth’s habitats (in the book Half Earth) will hopefully have even more influence and impact than the new fields of study he created. The book was an urgent cry to recognize that the diversity of life on Earth is integral to global health and sustainability. Simply put, in this time of global change, land and water conservation are our wisest investments. This is certainly true in the Ojai Valley and OVLC hopes to enlist your help in honoring Ed’s legacy by conserving more land. 

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