Dr. J. Angel (Angelo) Soto-Centeno, a Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Rutgers-Newark (SAS-N, Earth & Environmental Sciences) expands perceptions of biodiversity and advocates for local conservation to address a global crisis. His research on biodiversity loss in island communities Chronological context of species loss in a Caribbean vertebrate community is funded by the National Science Foundation.
My goal is to instill an appreciation for all species, from the rarest to the most common
How does your research / experience inform your teaching and service at the university?
My research at Rutgers-Newark lies at the intersection of speciation (i.e. the formation of new species) and extinction (i.e. the loss of species), and it aims to improve our understanding of the factors that affect the biodiversity of our planet. As an instructor, I borrow from my own research discoveries to bring a contemporary perspective of the importance of preserving biodiversity. My goal is to instill an appreciation for all species, from the rarest to the most common, and help all students become well-versed about the issues that have led to the current biodiversity crisis and are forever changing life on Earth.
How does this work advance the university's mission as a publicly-engaged anchor institution?
As an anchor institution, Rutgers-Newark aims to invest in our local community, acting as a two-way street to promote equity and inclusion through education. My work is relevant and perfectly aligns with this mission because the biodiversity crisis is centered on how communities use or misuse their available resources. Often, students that attend my courses have the misconception that “biodiversity” represents only those species that are flashy, poster-children like elephants, pandas, or tigers. I break this stereotype by highlighting that biodiversity includes all species (even humans), the individual makeup of their populations, and the habitats where they exist, even in our own backyards. This emphasis links how local resources can affect organisms, and how these can scale up interconnecting neighboring urban and rural ecosystems. By promoting this awareness, I hope to instill the importance of biodiversity conservation at local scales and help generate the interest needed to combat the biodiversity crisis broadly.
This spotlight originally appeared on the P3 Collaboratory website.