Keeping up with Kyoto Prize Laureate Daniel H. Janzen0
Kyoto Prize Laureate Daniel H. Janzen (1997 Basic Sciences) visited San Diego November 11 and 12, 2012 to celebrate the opening of a new exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum. BOLD: The Art of DNA Barcoding is a uniqueinteractive exhibition of tropical biodiversity art, science, and technology. BOLD features innovative Seattle artist Joseph Rossano’s biodiversity sculpture series, inspired and accompanied by Janzen’s caterpillar and butterfly photographs from Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG), Costa Rica. Simulating a near-future where DNA barcoding realizes a vision of reading nature—bioliteracy—via mobile devices, each BOLD piece incorporates its unique genetic sequence identity to bring the species’ natural history and science to the viewer. Rossano’s artwork vividly depicts how technology influences our understanding of the natural world. The groundbreaking San Diego exhibition features more than 20 original Rossano interactive art pieces and 15 Janzen photomicrographs, in partnership with Kyocera, Consul of Canada in San Diego, and the Hattie Ettinger Fund at the San Diego Foundation.
Janzen provided an update on his renowned bioculture restoration in ACG, on a 3-story screen at the Natural History Museum, for over 250 visitors. Preceding the lecture, a private VIP reception brought 70 enthusiastic Museum, Kyoto Symposium, and Janzen supporters to a more intimate setting, where Janzen and Rossano enthralled guests with their respective creative processes: exploring and understanding tropical biology, and creating art to demonstrate the science and technology embedded in Janzen’s life work.
Janzen’s lecture (made possible by the Wege Foundation) focused on the role of parataxonomists and other ACG staff in securing the survival of ACG and its dense and distinctive share of 60% of Costa Rican biodiversity. The Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund (CDFCF), established with his Kyoto Prize monies, is effectively positioned as a non-profit partner with the Costa Rican government to preserve the habitat; conduct basic research and inventory; and employ, educate, and enhance quality of life for local citizens in the world’s leading biodiversity development project. Janzen also emphasized the key role of and interaction with the Canadian-developed International Barcode of Life (IBOL) and its Barcode of Life Datasystems (BOLD). ACG encompasses 2.5% of the planet’s biodiversity, so is a leading contributor to the IBOL/BOLD vision of a searchable DNA barcode index of every species on Earth, building toward the approaching day when a simple, inexpensive mobile device can “read” nature everywhere. Any species encountered not already a part of the database contributes to its expansion and further discovery. While IBOL/BOLD faces difficult challenges due to Canadian austerity measures, the cuts are magnified by their impact on tropical developing countries that have just brought their scientific infrastructure to the cusp of major IBOL participation.
In an understated surprise, Janzen honored long-time Kyoto Symposium Honorary Chairman Dr. Irwin Jacobs, and his wife, Joan, when he described the key role of barcoding in identifying and understanding the biology of a beautiful new discovery: butterfly species Opsiphanes jacobsorum. The Jacobs and Kyoto Symposium Founder Malin Burnham later shared dinner with new and established Janzen supporters.
Janzen concluded the long weekend with a more intimate talk at Kyocera America’s newly renovated La Jolla Guest House, with over 60 guests from the biotech and arts and culture communities, jointly hosted by the Kyoto Symposium Organization, GDFCF, and the Consul of Canada in San Diego. Buzzing guests mingled, enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, and viewed photos of Rossano’s artwork. Introduced again by the Consul, Janzen’s presentation reviewed the special biodiversity of ACG, and applauded and challenged listeners to create a global biodiversity barcoding center from San Diego’s entrepreneurial nexus of genomics, sequencing, informatics, and wireless and mobile technologies amidst a global biodiversity hotspot. Janzen’s clarion call echoed this week when Google’s inaugural Global Impact Awards affirmed the potential of DNA barcoding technology for species identification by investing in a program to index 2,000 endangered species as the core of an intervention in the global illegal wildlife trade.
As anticipated in Janzen’s 2011 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award, his rare California visit “moved us on from a merely descriptive knowledge of tropical ecosystems to an understanding of their function. ‘Daniel Janzen is a supreme example of the complete ecological scientist,’ … the citation [announced], ‘combining expertise in natural history with scientific rigor and innovative thinking….He has applied his knowledge to the practical question of biodiversity conservation, and in the process shaped tropical ecology as we know it today….’” Establishing “…the concept of ‘biodiversity-based development’” in ACG, “…the local population has acquired a detailed knowledge of their environment and transformed the forest into a source of wealth for the community….[Janzen] continues to lead an innovative research program with an emphasis on the conservation of tropical biodiversity through its integration with local cultures.”
In addition to the Kyoto Prize and the BBVA Award, Janzen has been honored with the Crafoord Prize (1984) and a MacArthur Fellowship (1989). He is Professor of Conservation Biology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Note: Janzen supporters in San Diego were successful in leveraging Kyocera’s $500 contribution to the BOLD exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum and Kyocera America’s donation of lodging valued at over $3000 (for Janzen, his wife Winnie Hallwachs, artist Joseph Rossano and his wife, GDFCF Executive Director Eric Palola, and ACG historian and Univ of Missouri Science Journalism Professor William Allen) to raised cash or in-kind donations of over $11,000. As a result of our success, the Consul of Canada has arranged for San Diego visit in January by DNA barcoding inventor Paul Hebert.
Photos by Dr. Bradley Zlotnick