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5:46 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

NAU has new biodiversity center

Northern Arizona University and the Arizona Board of Regents have established a new center that will focus on biodiversity teaching and research.

The new Colorado Plateau Biodiversity Center (CPBC) is already conducting research on the biodiversity of the Colorado Plateau with more than $1.7 million in research money.

"It is critical that we accelerate our efforts to document biodiversity and better understand how to mitigate against global change impacts," said Neil Cobb, CPBC curator and NAU assistant research professor.

"The establishment of the center is a major step forward to promote research and education efforts to understand global change impacts on species and provide solutions to preserve biodiversity."

The CPBC currently has collections of more than 400,000 specimens that originated from NAU teaching and research in the departments of Biological Sciences, Geology, Environmental Sciences, and the School of Forestry since the 1920s. These collections include fossils, fungi, plants, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, as well as DNA and tissue-based genetic libraries.

"Genetic analysis and DNA archives are giving us new insights into how ecosystems function and change over time," CPBC Director Stefan Sommer said. "Understanding ecosystems is important because, after all, they are our life support systems on Earth."

"In this era of rapid environmental changes, well-documented collections of biological organisms represent invaluable windows into the past ecosystems of our region," said Laura Huenneke, Vice President for Research. "The university's commitment to sustaining these collections for research and teaching is another demonstration of our deep connection to the Colorado Plateau."

The CPBC, which the Arizona Board of Regents approved earlier this summer, strives to:

• Collect and document species of the Colorado Plateau and comparative species from other regions;

• Interpret the natural world through education, research and public programs;

• Promote understanding of the evolution and diversity of the Colorado Plateau;

• Inspire a respect for biodiversity and the environment.

The CPBC's 16 faculty curators and diverse collections support 29 regular university courses across five NAU departments, plus an array of undergraduate and graduate internships in education and research.

For more information on the CPBC, visit www.mpcer.nau.edu/cpbc, call Sommer at 928-523-4463, or e-mail him at Stefan.Sommer@nau.edu.