Academics and family gathered at Silwood Park to launch the Georgina Mace Centre for the Living Planet and unveil a plaque in honour of her legacy.
The Georgina Mace Centre for the Living Planet is dedicated to Professor Dame Georgina Mace FRS in remembrance of her commitment to improving the environment for all wildlife. The Centre is dedicated to producing science-based solutions to environmental problems.
Professor Dame Georgina Mace was a renowned ecologist and conservation biologist, contributing to many trustee roles such as being an active member of the advisory board for the National History Museum. Georgina dedicated six years of her expertise to her role as Professor of Conservative Science and Director of the NERC centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London. She later moved to UCL to become a Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystems.
Professor Mace also famously developed the universal criteria for listing the world’s threatened species in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. This influenced the commitment of the United Nations to substantially reduce rates of biodiversity loss.
Much loved and respected colleague
On 19 of September 2020, Professor Dame Georgina passed away at the age of 67, leaving her legacy as an inspiration to those who observed and believed in her vision for environmental improvement. Professor Vincent Savolainen, Director of the new Centre, said: “Professor Dame Georgina Mace was one of the most prominent ecologists and conservation biologists. She was a much loved and respected colleague, and we are delighted to be able to cherish her memory with this new Centre.”
Professor Matthew Fisher, Co-Director of the Centre remarked: “Georgina was key to mentoring and launching the careers of a generation of biologists and conservationists, including myself. Her tireless pursuit of evidence-based conservation directed the development of national and international strategies to ‘bend the curve of biodiversity loss’. The stage is now set for the Georgina Mace Centre for the Living Planet to forward the science and policy needed to restore biodiversity and the ecosystem services upon which a healthy planet depends.”
The launch of the Georgina Mace Centre for the Living Planet started with a talk from Professor Sir John Lawton, who was previously Director of the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial, and is currently President of the Institution of Environmental Sciences and Vice-President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. He discussed her influence and renowned scientific endeavours such as building new habitats for wildlife in order to target nature conservation.
Following this, Professor Andy Purvis, Research Leader at the Natural History Museum, discussed her early career and went into detail about her establishment of the IUCN Red List index and the Living Planet Index. Professor Purvis said that her work defines the way researchers view the relationship between nature, people and economies.
Georgina’s former colleague Kate Jones, who is now Professor of Ecology and Biodiversity at University College London offered a few words about her experience meeting Georgina and how her relationship with Georgina encouraged her academic development. To conclude the dedications, Georgina’s husband, Rod Evans, discussed his relationship with her and their family alongside her academic achievements.
Carrying on Georgina's legacy
Following the unveiling of the beautiful plaque dedicated to Professor Georgina Mace, the attendees were given the chance to explore the different projects researchers at the new Centre are undertaking in order to carry on Georgina’s legacy, such as engineering complex ecosystems, new approaches to environmental monitoring and predicting environmental change.
Target Malaria is one of many examples of how the new Centre aims to solve complex issues using genetic engineering. Target Malaria is an initiative in which researchers are working towards the goal of one day distributing genetically modified mosquitoes into African communities which suffer from high mortality rates from malaria, in order to reduce these statistics.
The Georgina Mace Centre for the Living Planet also houses the study of bacteria and how they respond to environmental changes, such as research that shows bacterial evolution is directly affected by the strain itself and the properties of the surrounding community. Researchers at the Centre will also focus on how the sound of an ecosystem has an impact on the quality and the importance of these results in monitoring the environment.
A fun day at Silwood Park
To kickstart the day at Silwood Park, the Bugs, Birds and Beasts Day took place in which local residents and families gathered to explore the anatomy of plants, animals and bugs. The event made a remarkable return, being the first of its kind to be held after the pandemic.
There were several informative and interactive exhibitions which allowed the exploration of the evolution of different species and how they contribute to maintaining our environment. The day out also included a bug hunt which many families engaged in, alongside holding, feeding and taking pictures with owls. Professor Savolainen said: “Bugs, Birds and Beasts Day is a fantastic opportunity for children to get close to wildlife they hardly encounter, from snakes and eagles to aquatic insects, and learn about their biology.”
Professor Guy Woodward, Deputy head of the Department of Life Sciences (Silwood Park), said: “We were absolutely delighted to mark the close of summer at our Silwood Park campus with two important events - the long-awaited return of our annual ‘Bugs, Birds and Beasts Day’ for the local community, which was attended by over 300 people of all ages and walks of life, followed by the launch of the Georgina Mace Centre for the Living Planet, with the plaque unveiling by Professor Sir John Lawton.
“The latter was our tribute to Georgina, who made an enormous contribution to the world of biodiversity science and conservation and it was lovely to see so many of her colleagues, friends and family gathered together to remember her so warmly as both a wonderful person and an outstanding scientist. Our goal now is to take her vision and legacy forward by working together to grapple with the big challenges this living planet will face in the coming years.”
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
Thomas Angus [Photographer]
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