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On June 16 and 17, 1999, NASA hosted a symposium at the Madison Hotel in Washington, DC. This symposium had two objectives. First, it sought to review the outcomes of ten pilot projects supported by NASA, certain natural history museums, and several nongovernmental organizations. These pilot projects were designed to demonstrate how NASA technologies and information products could support the conservation of biological diversity or biodiversity. They were developed after a 1997 workshop co-hosted by NASA and the Smithsonian Institution entitled: Applications of NASA Technology for Biodiversity Conservation. For further information about this initial 1997 workshop and its proceedings, as well as a list of the pilot projects, go to the 1997 workshop website. The June 1999 symposium’s second objective was to recommend areas for future NASA research and applications activities in conservation biology —an emerging multidisciplinary science that seeks both a better understanding of our planet’s biodiversity and to stem its ongoing decline. A key premise behind NASA’s involvement in these efforts is the ability of its satellite sensors and other remote sensing tools to provide some of the vital spatial context for conservation actions.

To explore opportunities for future research and applications, an ad hoc steering committee, largely composed of investigators involved in the ten pilot projects, developed three themes for discussion by breakout groups at the symposium. These three themes were: (1) Biodiversity Indicators and Modeling; (2) Remote Sensing Capabilities for the Biodiversity Community; and (3) Forest Fragmentation, Edge Effects, Buffers, and Corridors. Members of the steering committee drafted 1-2 page outlines for each of these three themes and the outlines were sent to participants prior to the symposium to help them select a breakout group in which to participate. Copies of these outlines may be found in Appendix 2 of these proceedings. Volunteers from the steering committee also led the breakout groups. Summary reports from these three groups, with associated recommendations and issues for NASA in their conclusions, constitute the majority of these proceedings.

Although they were presented at the symposium, reports from the ten pilot projects are not included in these proceedings. A special section of the journal Conservation Biology is being planned that will include reports from most of the initial projects. It is hoped that the special section will appear in the summer of 2001. The titles and presenters of the pilot project reports delivered at the June 1999 symposium are below. [Project reports appear in the August 2001 issue of Conservation Biology.]

  1. Remote Sensing-Derived Indices of Biodiversity Value in the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion, U.S. & Mexico: A Comparative Study of Two Desert Grassland Sites
    (Esteban Muldavin, University of New Mexico and The Nature Conservancy)

  2. Tracking Natural Community Fragmentation and Changes in Land Cover: Applications of Landsat Data for Conservation in Chicago Wilderness
    (Debra Moskovits, The Field Museum, and Yeqiao Wang, University of Illinois at Chicago)

  3. Amphibian Declines and Environmental Change: An Overview
    (Cynthia Carey, University of Colorado)

  4. Conserving Biodiversity in Mongolia: A Pilot Project in Lake Hovsgol National Park
    (Cully Hession, The Academy of Natural Sciences)

  5. The Conservation of the Chiquitano Dry Forest Ecoregion in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
    (Timothy Killeen, Missouri Botanical Garden)

  6. Assessment and Monitoring of Biodiversity Change in Hispaniola
    (Jose Ottenwalder, Dominican Biodiversity Project)

  7. Modeling Forest Loss and Fragmentation in Southwestern Central African Republic
    (David Wilkie, Boston College)

  8. Development of Global Land Products: Recommendations for Joint Research and Data Products between NASA & the NGO/Museum Biodiversity Community
    (Donat Agosti, American Museum of Natural History)

  9. Forest Fragmentation and Loss of Biodiversity in the Atlantic Rain Forest of Southern Bahia, Brazil
    (Donat Agosti, American Museum of Natural History)

  10. Reassessing the 1983-1984 Mass Mortality of the Sea Urchin, Diadema antillarum,Using Remote Sensing: Lessons Learned and Future Detection Capabilities
    (Jonathan Phinney, Center for Marine Conservation)

In addition to the three breakout groups, there was also an evening session on June 16 that focused on methods for training and capacity building in the use of remote sensing techniques. Eleanor Sterling of the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation led this session and facilitated an exchange of ideas as to how best to bring NASA Earth observation technologies to conservation biologists.

This symposium would not have been possible without the hard work of the ad hoc steering committee. These individuals gave freely of their time and wisdom to design a symposium from the ground up that was attended by approximately ninety people. They also generally determined whom to invite and several of them served as chairs of the breakout sessions. It is with a profound sense of gratitude and respect for their insights and abilities that they are listed below.

Donat Agosti, American Museum of Natural History
Dirck Byler, Conservation International
Cynthia Carey, University of Colorado
Beth Creamer, Science Systems and Applications, Inc.
Prashant Hedao, ESRI
Cully Hession, The Academy of Natural Sciences
Timothy Killeen, Missouri Botanical Garden
Fred Koontz, Wildlife Preservation Trust International
Xiaojun Li, The Nature Conservancy
Eugenio Marcano, Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena, Dominican Republic
Debra Moskovits, The Field Museum
Esteban Muldavin, University of New Mexico & New Mexico Natural Heritage Program
John Musinsky, Conservation International
Jonathan Phinney, Center for Marine Conservation
Sasan Saatchi, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Eleanor Sterling, American Museum of Natural History
Yeqiao Wang, University of Illinois at Chicago

Finally, sincere thanks to Angela Clark-Williams of Westover Consultants Inc. for her superb support of both the symposium and its planning and to Beatrice Jones Ross, Karen Eddleman, and James O’Grady for their assistance in taking the meeting minutes.

This symposium constitutes another step in a growing partnership between NASA and those working to address perhaps the most challenging global change of our time - the loss of biodiversity.

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