Delve into disease outbreaks and probe into post-mortems at ZSL’s brand new science events

International conservation charity, Zoological Society of London, unveils 2020/21 science and conservation event schedule 

2020 has put a spotlight on the issues, risks and challenges created by human over-exploitation and misunderstanding of wildlife and, with it, has helped to raise important questions about the future of conservation and our planet. 

International conservation charity ZSL has been working to answer such questions for decades, with its world-leading scientists and conservationists tackling pressing issues ranging from human/wildlife conflict to disease outbreaks, and they are bringing their research to the public with a new series of science and conservation events.

Launching on Tuesday 13 October 2020, the series will see ZSL’s experts joined by renowned colleagues from scientific institutions, universities, and NGOs to discuss their cutting-edge research and debate the issues facing wildlife in a brand-new series of virtual events, that are completely free to attend.  
For the first time ever, ZSL’s annual science and conservation events will be entirely digital, allowing more people than ever before to engage with its scientists, conservationists, and guest-speakers at the previously hugely oversubscribed events.

All events will be livestreamed on ZSL’s YouTube channel – and there is no need to register in advance.  

Find out ore about ZSL's science events
EVENT: What’s next for rewilding? 
DATE: Thursday 13 October 2020, 6:00pm to 7:30pm

‘Free Roaming Animals!’ sign at Knepp Estate, West Sussex ©Henrike Schulte to Bühne 

Rewilding has emerged as a captivating, but controversial, concept in conservation. Depending on how rewilding is defined, it aims to increase “wildness” of nature, regenerate ecosystem functioning, develop self-sustaining ecosystems, or achieve a combination of these. The concept is however gaining traction, particularly in the UK: several conservation NGOs have started to implement rewilding projects and/or develop policies or institutional strategies anchored on the tenets of rewilding.

This event will discuss the current research and conceptual priorities for rewilding to be broadly adopted by legislators and practitioners. Focus will be brought on the UK, a country whose decision to leave the European Union has triggered a significant reshaping of the environmental policy landscape, thereby opening policy windows for rewilding to become part of the national toolkit for boosting biodiversity.

EVENT: Habitat loss and human health – understanding the links between ecosystem degradation and infectious disease outbreaks  
DATE: Tuesday 10 November 2020, 6:00pm to 7:30pm

Satellite image of protected forest in the Amazon adjacent to converted agricultural land © Planet Labs
Satellite image of protected forest in the Amazon adjacent to converted agricultural land © Planet Labs

As people around the world increasingly disturb natural habitats and convert them to agricultural and urban areas, the way that local communities interact with the animal species around them also changes. These processes can potentially drive greater contact between people and animals carrying viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that can also infect people (e.g. Ebola, Plague, Monkey malaria, SARS-COV-2).  

Recent findings have shown that large-scale and ongoing degradation of natural landscapes causes an increase in the number of host species that people can come into contact with and, in some instances, there is evidence that the number of disease cases increases as biodiversity is lost. Here, we examine the latest research in this area and show that there is a strong need to carefully manage future landscape change across the world, to protect biodiversity, and by doing so potentially limit human exposure to dangerous pathogens


EVENT: Putting reptiles on the map: ZSL science for reptilian conservation  

DATE: Tuesday 8 December 2020, 6:00pm to 7:30pm

Lygodactylus williamsi

Reptiles comprise almost one third of all land vertebrate species on Earth, and also occur in marine and freshwater systems. Despite their amazing diversity, reptiles remain underrepresented in conservation compared to mammals, birds and even amphibians.

The world’s protected areas do not represent reptiles as effectively as they do birds or mammals, and our knowledge of the extinction risk of reptile species has traditionally lagged behind that of amphibians, birds and mammals. Through advances in IUCN Red List assessments, the publication of the first Living Planet Index for reptiles, highlighting and protecting the most evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered (EDGE) reptiles, and supporting reintroductions of threatened turtles, ZSL has been pushing the global conservation agenda for reptiles.  
This event will delve into the fascinating, yet threatened, world of reptiles and the efforts to shine a spotlight on reptile conservation.

EVENT: Revealing the unseen: The amazing world of wildlife pathology 
DATE: Tuesday 12 January 2021, 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Malaria in penguin liver smear © Simon Spiro, ZSL
Pathology is the science of diagnosing and characterising diseases by observing the physical changes they induce in animal cells and tissues, either in living (biopsies) or, more commonly in the veterinary world, dead animals (post-mortems).  

During this event, ZSL's pathologists and scientists will demonstrate how they use these techniques to peer into this internal world where the immune system fights against invading bacteria, viruses hide with the body's own cells and environmental pollutants corrupt vital chemical reactions.  

ZSL's wildlife veterinary pathologist will discuss the practicalities of performing post-mortem examinations on a variety of animals, from massive elephants to tiny invertebrates. Using video footage and live microscopy, the audience will be able to follow the process from the pathologist’s perspective. Scientists working in ZSL's Institute of Zoology will describe how they are tracking an invasive fungus that is killing snakes and how they investigate the deaths of whales, dolphins and sharks that wash up on British coasts.

Find out more about upcoming ZSL Science events

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