Articles Call for Leveraging Biodiversity Science Infrastructure

Two articles published in the July 2020 issue of BioScience — an Editorial led by NSC Alliance Treasurer Jennifer Zaspel and a Viewpoint led by Past-President Joe Cook — are calling for increased coordination and new strategies for integrating biodiversity collections into efforts to tackle pathogen discovery and emerging infectious diseases, including zoonoses.

In the Editorial, “Human Health, Interagency Coordination, and the Need for Biodiversity Data,” Zaspel and colleagues note that “massive advances in infrastructure, digitization, and organization of physical specimens and their associated data have transformed their use to address global societal challenges.”  To build on these successes, the authors call for greater interagency cooperation and support for the “infrastructure, coordination, and management of biodiversity data.”

In the Viewpoint, “Integrating Biodiversity Infrastructure into Pathogen Discovery and Mitigation of Emerging Infectious Diseases,” Cook and colleagues, including current NSC Alliance President John Bates, elaborate the ways in which biodiversity science is a powerful tool for identifying future threats to human well-being: “At its core, the COVID-19 pandemic is a consequence of our fundamental ignorance of our planet’s natural ecosystems and the effects of our encroachment on them.”  The authors argue that if properly supported the world’s natural history collections, which house 3 billion-plus specimens, can be a powerful tool for combating this ignorance.