Biodiversity symposium fund-raising effort to save eight acres of rain forest

CULLOWHEE — About eight acres of rain forest will be added to a conservation area in Costa Rica as a result of a fund-raising effort that occurred in conjunction with Western Carolina University’s recent symposium on biodiversity.

A total of $3,217 was raised during the March 15 symposium to help Daniel Janzen, a tropical ecologist, add rain forest to the Guanacaste Conservation Area, a national park in Costa Rica, said Claire Eldridge, WCU’s vice chancellor for advancement and external affairs.

The symposium brought Janzen and two other speakers to campus to address the topic “Biodiversity: New Perspectives on its Magnitude and Meaning.”

Janzen, a biology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has been on a personal crusade to save biodiversity in Costa Rica for the past 15 years. Through the fund-raising efforts of Janzen and his wife, biologist Winnie Hallwachs, more than $32 million has been raised to purchase land to add to the Guanacaste Conservation Area.

The conservation area contains about 235,000 species of organisms in its dry forest, cloud forest and rain forest. That equals 2.4 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and 60 percent of the species that occur in Costa Rica. Janzen’s current effort is to raise funds to add the 5,000-acre Rincon Rain Forest to the park.

The money raised during WCU’s symposium came from a number of sources, including $1,714 in donations from symposium attendees, $250 from the sale of Janzen’s rain forest photos, and $453 from symposium registration fees, Eldridge said.

Also, WCU’s Honor College presented a $500 check, made up of personal contributions from Honors College students and faculty, to Janzen at a post-symposium gathering.

Another $250 was donated to Janzen’s cause by Robert Moody’s advanced placement biology class from Tuscola High School. The class was awarded the $250 as a prize after it won first place in a poster contest held in conjunction with the symposium. The class decided to give that money back as a contribution to Janzen’s rain forest campaign.

About 800 people, including science professionals, local high school students and members of the WCU community, attended the symposium, part of Western’s Chancellor’s Science Symposium series.