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Press release

  • 24 March 2009

Sussex biologist gives rainforest talk at Royal Geographical Society

...and the spectacled bear

...and the spectacled bear

The Ecuadorian cloudforest is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, including the choco toucan...

The Ecuadorian cloudforest is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, including the choco toucan...

The effects of climate change on one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world is the subject of a Royal Geographical Society talk being given by University of Sussex scientist and conservationist Dr Mika Peck on Thursday (March 26).

The event is organised by international environmental charity Earthwatch and will be chaired by television presenter and explorer Paul Rose.

Dr Peck, who is a lecturer in the University's department of Biology and Environmental Science, runs the Earthwatch Climate Change, Canopies and Wildlife project team, and has spent several years investigating the status of endangered wildlife and the effects of climate change on rainforest in the cloud forests of north-west Ecuador in South America.

The world's forests are home to an extraordinary range of species, and are arguably one of the greatest safeguards against climate change. Yet deforestation, whether for timber, farming or human settlement, continues at an alarming rate - a fact remembered annually on World Forestry Day (March 21).

Dr Peck's lecture is based on data collected by Earthwatch volunteers, which is used to assess the impacts of climate and environmental change on the cloudforests of north-west Ecuador, home to animals such as the spectacled bear and several big cat species, as well as a rich diversity of birds, insects, primates and other mammals.

He will also be asking whether technology such as Google Earth can help to identify canopy tree species from space and contribute to more accurate climate prediction, and to identify priority conservation areas from space.

Dr Peck says: "The work being undertaken by Earthwatch volunteers and our team of scientists in the Ecaudorian cloudforestsd provides scientific information to underpin an integrated conservation initiative to conserve a corridor of forest in a biodiversity hotspot by Rainforest Concern."

Also speaking at the event is Dr Dan Bebber of the Earthwatch Institute, whose talk is entitled The Footprint in the Forest.

Notes for editors

The Forests and Climate Change lecture takes place at the Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London, on 26 March from 7pm to 8.30pm. Lectures are free to students and current Earthwatch donors. To book a ticket call 01865 318856, or email


Dr Mika Peck is a lecturer in biology at the University of Sussex. Current research includes the development of a sustainable network for primate conservation in Ecuador with the Darwin Initiative PRIMENET project. This project focuses on using a flagship species, the critically endangered Brown-headed spider monkey, to develop a conservation strategy to protect primates and remaining habitat in NW Ecuador. Current research includes primate survey, habitat assessment, remote sensing and environmental education through the training of a network of local parabiologists.


Founded in 1971, Earthwatch is an international environmental charity which engages people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Over 3,500 volunteers have worked on Earthwatch projects, which have grown to 140 projects in over 50 countries around the world.


The Earthwatch Climate change, canopies and wildlife project runs from 2008 to 2011 and aims to develop novel remote sensing methods (mapping using satellite and computer technology) to assess the impacts of climate change on Andean forest ecosystems in addition to establishing the current capacity of reserves to maintain viable populations of large mammals.


World Forestry Day is celebrated in forests around the world on 21 March each year as people take time to consider the benefits of forests to the community. It has been celebrated for 30 years to remind communities of the importance of forests and the many benefits which we gain from them.

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