Middlebury biology professor Helen Young will give the first of two M-squared lectures this spring, on March 5 from 12-1:30 in MG 100. Her topic is “Saving what we ‘value’: the limitations of ecosystem valuation.”
To increase public interest in biodiversity conservation in the late 1970s, “ecosystem services” provided a framework to assess the beneficial functions that ecosystems provide. This “assessment” rapidly shifted to an economic valuation of ecosystem services to humankind, making these services into commodities with real cash value. This talk will explore what we and the earth lose when only commodities in natural systems are valued – what biodiversity and evolutionary phenomena will be lost and the importance of these metrics to ecosystems.
Helen is a field biologist interested in plant reproductive biology, pollination biology, and the conservation of native bee pollinators.
Her studies of plant-pollinator interactions examine how floral traits affect pollinator behavior, which, in turn, influence plant reproductive success. In Vermont, she has worked extensively with jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) and its pollinators. This system is also characterized by nectar-robbers (bees that remove nectar from flowers without pollinating them), which has led to her investigating the causes and consequences of robbing. In addition, she is examining the effect of habitat fragmentation on bumblebee pollinators in Addison County. In this project, she is examining what features of the landscape are associated with bumblebee abundance with an eye toward conservation of these landscape features to maintain healthy and diverse pollinator communities.
In addition to her lecture, Helen will also be attending classes, meeting with faculty and students… and visiting the garden!