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Science Literacy Week September 21 - 27, 2020

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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