Conserving natural terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems (including their genetic and species diversity) is essential for human well-being and sustainable development. And, conserving ecosystems plays a key role in the global carbon cycle and in adapting to climate change.

Why does this area of excellence matter in sustainability?

The study of Biodiversity and Ecology is vital to understanding ecosystem processes. Conserving, restoring, and managing these natural systems is critical for sustaining ecosystem services, producing food and clean water, regulating climate, and reducing the impacts of climate change on natural and built environments.

Key Questions:

  • What are the consequences of biodiversity loss across the planet?
  • How will mass extinctions affect ecosystem services across the world?
  • How will climate change alter our ecosystems?
  • What are the best practices to mitigate damage caused by human activity?


Jack Ahern (LARP), Anne Averill (ECo), Paul Barten (ECo), Mandy Bayer (SSA), Prasanta Bhowmik (SSA), Bethany Bradley (ECo), Paul Catanzaro (ECo), Brian Cheng (ECo), Bradley Compton (ECo), Andy Danylchuk (ECo), Kristen DeAngelis (Micro), William DeLuca (ECo), Stephen Destefano (ECo), Zara Dowling (ECo), Joe Elkinton (ECo), Lena Fletcher (ECo), Todd Fuller (ECo), Curt Griffin (ECo), Masoud Hashemi (SSA), Deborah Henson (ECo), Scott Jackson (ECo), Adrian Jordaan (ECo), Katherine Kahl (ECo), Lisa Komoroske (ECo), R. Mark Leckie (GEO), Derek Lovley (Micro), Dana MacDonald (GEO), Ezra Markowitz (ECo), Kelly Nevin (Micro), Klaus Nüsslein (Micro), Melissa Ocana (ECo), Elsa Petit (SSA), Jaime Pinero (SSA), Ethan Plunkett (ECo), Allison Roy (ECo), Michelle Staudinger (ECo), Kristina Stinson (ECo), John Stoffolano (SSA), Chris Sutherland (ECo), Paige Warren (ECo), Robert Wick (SSA), Peter Zahler (ECo)

For more details about our faculty, staff, and researchers engaged in this area, please visit the SES Biodiversity and Ecology Directory page.

*Department of Environmental Conservation (ECo), Environmental Microbiology Group within the Department of Microbiology (Micro), Department of Geosciences (GEO), Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning (LARP), Stockbridge School of Agriculture (SSA)

Featured Project:

Project 1: Climate Change Refugia Conservation

Toni Lyn Morelli, USGS/Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center and Adjunct Faculty member with the Department of Environmental Conservation
Contributors: Scott Jackson (ECo), Ben Letcher (USGS/Adjunct ECo), Becca Quinones (Mass DFW), and various other out-of-state contributors

Climate change is increasingly threatening the environment and human livelihoods. Our Refugia Research Coalition brings together resource managers, conservation practitioners, and researchers to reduce the impacts of anthropogenic climate change by focusing conservation on climate change refugia, areas that remain relatively buffered from contemporary climate change over time and enable persistence of species and other ecosystem services

Project 2: Evaluating the Historic Role of Forage Fish in Lost Fisheries Production

Beatriz Dias and Adrian Jordaan, Department of Environmental Conservation

Findings demonstrated that restoring the abundance of alewives to historical levels in a few watersheds could lead to population increases for economically valuable predators such as cod and summer flounder along with dramatic rises in abundance for pelagic sharks, toothed whales, and several other species of conservation concern. These results demonstrate the key role of anadromous alewives and similar species as a forage base for marine predators. In a broader context, with oceans under threat from climate change and fisheries management shifting to an ecosystem approach, this work demonstrates the importance of a diverse forage fish base. Such research could inform policy discussions that weigh the benefits of restoring connectivity against the costs of dam removal.