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Conservationist to share discovery of a 'Lost World'

October 16, 2008

Noted conservationist Bruce Beehler, who has been featured on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” will speak at Wake Forest University Nov. 13 about his explorations of a “lost world” in a remote corner of the tropical island of New Guinea.

“Lost Worlds:  Discoveries from the Edge of Civilization” will begin at 7 p.m. in Wait Chapel.   The event, part of Wake Forest’s Voices of Our Time speaker series, is free and open to the public.

In recent expeditions to the mist-shrouded forests of New Guinea’s Foja Mountains, far from civilization, Beehler and his team of scientists found a biodiversity treasure trove.  They discovered dozens of new species of birds, insects and plants.  

His most recent book, “Lost Worlds,” chronicles his adventures in New Guinea and other tropical jungles around the world.

“Even in this Internet age of satellite images and instant communication, our planet still holds magnificent secrets,” said Beehler, who is also an ornithologist.  “This area of New Guinea may represent the most pristine natural ecosystem in the entire Asia-Pacific region.  This discovery gives people hope that there are these untouched places.”

At Wake Forest, he will share his thoughts on the importance of wilderness and the nature of the relationship between humankind and the earth’s natural environment.  He will offer fresh insights on a place that occupies only a small fraction of the earth’s surface, but is home to nearly 10 percent of its species – many still undiscovered.  Beehler will return from an expedition to New Guinea two days before speaking at Wake Forest.

His presentation will include sound recordings, color images and video highlighting some of his most remarkable discoveries, including a bird-of-paradise that had been lost to science for more than a century.

The field team found 20 new species of frogs, five new butterfly species, 10 new plants, several new mammals, and the new honeyeater bird.  Included in the list is the golden-mantled tree kangaroo, new to the country of Indonesia.

Beehler currently serves as senior research scientist at Conservation International, an organization dedicated to supporting conservation efforts and biodiversity projects worldwide.  He has invested much of his professional career in studying the birds and rain forests of the Southwest Pacific and South Asia.  He worked for 10 years at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and moved from there to the Wildlife Conservation Society.   

Beehler has served in the U.S. State Department working with international environmental policy.  He is developing new collaborative field research initiatives that focus on how global climate change is affecting forests, wildlife and livelihoods in the tropical Asia-Pacific region.  He is the author or co-author of several natural history books, including “Birds of New Guinea, “The Birds of Paradise,” and “Ecology of Papua.”

Beehler will also speak at Wake Forest’s 24th Annual Perspectives in Biology Symposium Nov. 14 and 15.  Biology faculty from colleges and universities across the region will gather for the event, which is not open to the public.

Voices of Our Time is an annual guest speaker series that exposes students, the Wake Forest community and the general public to some of the world’s leading thinkers for discussions on the important national and international issues of our time.  It was established in 2006 by Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch.

Another Voices of Our Time event scheduled during the 2008-2009 academic year will feature David Gergen, political analyst for CNN and advisor to four U.S. presidents.  Gergen, professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Life at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, will speak at Wake Forest Feb. 10.

Press Contacts:

Cheryl Walker
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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