The Next New Species Could be in Your Backyard: Why Exploration and Discovery Matter – Everywhere

Collection: Patrick R. Leacock 5450 2003 Aug 9 USA, Illinois, Cook County Illinois Mycological Association foray  Herbarium: F, C0210207F
Photograph by Patrick R. Leacock

Gregory M. Mueller, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist and Negaunee Foundation Vice President of Science
Chicago Botanic Garden

When we think about discovering new species, we tend to envision tropical rainforests, remote deserts or lofty mountain peaks. But researchers, including myself, are taking a closer look at the landscapes right under our noses – in my case, the Chicago suburbs – and finding new species, shattering assumptions and uncovering new questions we ought to be asking.

Just a few months ago, a research team tackled one of the world’s great urban jungles, discovering incredible biodiversity in the soil that makes up Central Park. Even though they live just inches below one of the most visited places in the world, many of these organisms had never been described before. Meanwhile, researchers on Staten Island were able to employ modern molecular analyses to identify a new species of frog – finally corroborating a 1937 paper that was dismissed due to lack of supporting evidence.

As molecular analysis techniques are applied more broadly to biodiversity studies and conservation biology, we’re learning that the ecosystems around us are even more special and complex than we once thought – even in urban areas. This has —> Read More Here


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