LLU Opens Center for Biodiversity
and Conservation Studies
Goal is to study creation care

BY LARRY KIDDER, Loma Linda University
eing a good steward of the earth is one area in which religion and science can work together hand in hand toward a common positive goal.

William K. Hayes, a professor of earth and biological science at Loma Linda University’s School of Science and Technology (SST), and his colleagues in the Department of Earth and Biological Sciences hope to bring science and religion together to promote a better understanding of the natural world and conservation efforts to save it.

They are developing the new Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Studies, which will be located in Griggs Hall and will involve faculty in the School of Science and Technology’s Department of Earth and Biological Sciences. Hayes will serve as director of the new center.

PRESERVATION ADVOCATE: William K. Hayes, director of Loma Linda University’s new Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Studies, handles a juvenile alligator that would be an ideal candidate to help emphasize the need to preserve habitats for the diverse organisms that share our planet with us.
“We’re excited about opening this new center in our school,” says Beverly J. Buckles, dean of the School of Science and Technology and a professor of social work and social ecology. “The center will help create a new appreciation for our natural world and bolster support for saving our environment.”

Hayes explains: “Scientific study is an important tool in understanding our planet so that we can take better care of all living organisms that share it.”

He adds, “Our center will provide a place for people of all ages to learn more about the natural world and how our actions as humans can disrupt our fellow organisms.”

Hayes and his fellow researchers each have their special areas of research interest, as well as laboratories to pursue those interests. A number of graduate students assist the faculty, as well as pursue research of their own.

“Our mission is ‘to promote environmental awareness and stewardship among Christians and other faith groups,’” Hayes continues. “We’re planning to create an experiential ‚Ä®facility where people of all ages can see various microbes, plants, and animals, learn about the natural world, and be introduced to conservation efforts and concepts.”

The displays would begin with biodiversity in unicellular life forms and progress through complex life forms, arriving at mammals. Actual specimens would be on display, and graduate students would be on hand to explain and answer questions.

“As the citizens of our planet become progressively more aware of the need to save our increasingly damaged biosphere, Christians need to pause and think about their role in the rapidly growing environmental movement,” Hayes suggests.

He continues, “A number of published studies demonstrate that Christians throughout the world express measurably less concern about environmental issues than the public at large.”

Hayes and his colleagues hope to “shape the Adventist Church’s mind-set toward the environment through a high-visibility organization devoted to promoting environmental stewardship.”

He reasons, “In doing so, we intend to reach out to other faith groups and to the world in general, showing that Christians can and should be active in caring for and ministering to the creation.”

Support for such initiatives as the center has come from the church’s top leadership. In an article titled “Freedom to Care,” published in the July 2008 issue of Adventist World, General Conference president Jan Paulsen wrote: “Is the environment an ‘Adventist issue’? Do we have something significant—something unique—to contribute to environmental care? I believe the answer is ‘yes.’”

Paulsen added, “My hope is that we will move toward a fuller discussion of Adventism and environmental responsibility, and that we’ll begin to develop an approach that is true to our values and consistent with our historic calling.”

Hayes agrees. “The time is ripe for the Seventh-day Adventist Church to play a larger role in promoting stewardship,” he suggests. “Loma Linda University, with a department actively engaged in highly productive biodiversity and conservation studies, is well-suited to take a leadership role.”
A version of this article originally appeared in Loma Linda University Today and is reprinted here with permission.

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