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Science Literacy Week September 20 - 26, 2021

Science Literacy Week September 20 - 26, 2021

The role of historical material in biodiversity

Historical material plays an important role in biodiversity research. The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) series of blogs demonstrate how historic literature provides unique and "time-stamped" information about previous ecosystems, climate records, habitat alteration and species mortality and adaptation.

This series discusses how both the knowledge about the earth’s species and ecosystems in previous times and the historical perspective it provides help identify the extent of climate change.  Learning about past extinctions informs the relationships within ecosystems and therefore can help identify current day critical keystone species.  This in turn can help predict future extinctions and inform protective strategies.  Additionally, harvesting the information in books into modern datasets creates big data that can be used in computational models to inform the development of conservation measures and create theories. 

Rare Books and Special Collections at UBC has an extensive science collection starting from the 15th century and the early days of the printing press. Below is a selection of some of these; many of which are also digitally available   

Zoological resources - Early books 

Botanical sources – Herbals etc.

Botanical sources – Herbals etc. 

Surveys, fieldbooks and travel

Surveys, fieldbooks and travel  

Climate-related fonds and collections

Rare Books and Special Collections holds many fonds related to British Columbia's environment. As we know now, global climate health is determined by and connected to a variety of environmental factors, including air quality, the health of oceans and waterways, forested lands, biodiversity and more. Many historical forces have impacted these factors, and still do today, including settler-colonial appropriation of Indigenous lands and waters, resource extraction industries, and organizations which fought for the preservation of what is conceptualized in a western framework as 'wilderness'. As we continue to write the history of tomorrow, what can be learned by the records of the past? For a highlight on the Forestry Industry in British Columbia, check out the Forest History and Archives LibGuide, available here.

You can also out some of the fonds below, which include records documenting historical climate data, struggles for climate action, and the development of creative works to educate others on the importance of climate issues. If you're interested in seeing any of these materials in person, visit us at RBSC.