card
376

Ana Luz Porzecanski

OLogy Series
ologist
card
376

Ana Luz Porzecanski

OLogy Series
ologist

When she was a kid, Ana Luz Porzecanski explored the landscapes of rural Uruguay and Brazil and the many plants and animals that live there. When she grew up, she became a conservation biologist. This is a scientist who studies wildlife, ecosystems, and how humans and the rest of nature can live together. Today, she is the director of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History. In this job, she works with people all over the world to conserve nature and biodiversity (“biodiversity” is short for “biological diversity”).

Working for Biodiversity

In her fieldwork, Ana Luz Porzecanski has helped identify and discover species that make up the planet’s biodiversity. But as a conservation biologist and director of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC), she is also working to protect this biodiversity.

One of the main goals of the CBC is to transform knowledge about biodiversity into conservation action. This means working closely with communities where biodiversity is threatened.

For example, in British Columbia, the CBC worked with Native Americans to better understand endangered grizzly bears. Together, drawing from science and the Heiltsuk people’s knowledge and customs, they were able to learn about and protect the grizzly bear population.

Whether they are in Peru, Madagascar, or Mongolia, the CBC scientists always work closely with local communities and partners on conservation programs.

Which of these things is a part of an area’s biodiversity?

bacteria

rocks

water

Are you right?

Correct!

“Biodiversity” is short for “biological diversity.” It’s all the life on this planet–from bacteria to fungi to plants to animals—including humans! It’s also the ecosystems that you find around the planet, like wetlands, deserts, and forests.

Some of Ana’s first fieldwork was as an ornithologist, a scientist who studies:

ancient civilizations

birds

plants

Are you right?

Correct!

Ana studied birds in the South American grasslands. Some of the birds she studied were tinamous. These brown and gray birds were hard to see in the tall grass and shrubs. So Ana listened for their song!

Scientists working in Cuba have discovered several new species. How do they know a species is new?

they compare the specimen’s physical traits to known species' physical traits

they compare the specimen’s DNA to known species' DNA

both of these

Are you right?

Correct!

DNA can be especially helpful if the species are very hard to tell apart! With animals, scientists may also compare its behavior to known species. For example, they might listen to a bird’s song or observe the structure of a spider’s web.

Ana Luz Porzecanski, conservation biologist

One of the things I like most about being a scientist is that you’re surrounded by curious people—people who really love questions as much as answers. That’s an exciting place to be.

Biodiversity makes life possible for humans.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The biodiversity around you and in distant places helps provide the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and even many of the medicines we take.

In 2015, Ana helped lead an exhibition to explore biodiversity in Cuba, a Caribbean nation with many unique species. This was the first time the AMNH has worked with Cuban scientists.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

This was the first large expedition in many decades, but the collaboration is over 100 years old! Since the late 1880s, there have been about 30 field projects exploring Cuba.

Hometown: Montevideo, Uruguay

Job: conservation biologist; professor

Role at the Museum: Director, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation

Education: B.Sc., Universidad de la República, Uruguay; Ph.D., Columbia University

Fieldwork: around the world, from South America to Africa

Fun fact: If Ana weren’t a scientist, she would like to be an artist like her grandmother.