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Lawrence's Del Toro to Lead Fall 2022 Field Museum Semester Focused on Climate Threat to Biodiversity

Published: November 8, 2021

Lawrence's Del Toro to Lead Fall 2022 Field Museum Semester Focused on Climate Threat to Biodiversity

Photo © Field Museum / Photo by Lucy Hewett

Israel Del Toro

Climate change is the largest societal and ecological threat to our planet, and changing climate threatens entire ecosystems and the biodiversity within them. Lawrence University's Israel Del Toro will explore this topic as visiting faculty director of the Fall 2022 Field Museum Semester: Research in Natural History, teaching the course "Conservation Biogeography in a Changing Climate: Using natural history collections and big data to predict species distributions in a changing world."

In the course, students will start by learning about foundational biogeographic principles and how they can be used to better understand species geographic ranges. Then, students will examine which environmental and climatic drivers best predict species and ecosystem distributions within the context of a changing global climate. Students will also learn about the major causes and consequences of anthropogenic disturbances, including landscape modification, habitat loss, recent climate change, and their ecological and societal impacts on biodiversity.

"By working with students at the Field Museum, we will explore the geographical patterns of species distributions and how these might change as our planet faces the most extreme battle of our time, climate change. The collections and faculty at the Field are world class and provide this exciting opportunity for my students and me."

Israel Del Toro, Assistant Professor of Biology, Lawrence University

“Our world is constantly changing and impacting biodiversity," said Del Toro, Assistant Professor of Biology. "By working with students at the Field Museum, we will explore the geographical patterns of species distributions and how these might change as our planet faces the most extreme battle of our time, climate change. The collections and faculty at the Field are world class and provide this exciting opportunity for my students and me.”

In addition to Del Toro's course, the Field Museum Semester will consist of a seminar led by museum staff and an immersive internship in one of the museum’s departments for each student. The visiting faculty director also has the ability to conduct research at the museum and in collaboration with museum staff.

Del Toro’s work focuses on evaluating the impacts of climate change on arthropod biodiversity in arid ecosystems of North America. He uses observational studies, experiments, and spatial and statistical species distribution models to measure and predict the effects of a changing climate on ecosystem processes and biodiversity. Much of his research focuses on the important ecosystem services provided by social insects that often go unappreciated. He works on ants and wild bees as model systems for provisioning of ecosystems services. 

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