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posted 04/01/05

CERC Helps Environmental Journalists Understand Changing Science

In an effort to inform the public of the impact of the ever-greater demand on the world’s natural resources — costs of which run into the tens or hundreds of billions of dollars annually — The Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC), the New York Times Foundation and Nurture New York's Nature hosted a week-long intensive program for journalists, presenting tools to interpret and report on the sometimes-conflicting scientific information about leading environmental issues.

From March 13-18, reporters, editors and photographers from a variety of organizations including National Geographic, Miami Herald, the Washington Post, CNBC, Univision, Scientific American, Hoy gathered in the Dominican Republic to participate in lectures and workshops on topics including climate change, scarcity of fresh water, destructive fishing and land use practices, outbreaks of new and re-emergent diseases, and the degradation of environmental capital. They also received a briefing on the final report of the U.N. Millennium Task Force on Environmental Sustainability.

"The steps we take in this century will depend on an informed public sector, private sector, and citizenry. Newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV play a major role in informing these sectors and therefore have a special responsibility to investigate, analyze, and report on the environmental challenges we are facing," said Don Melnick, executive director of the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation.

Presentations were made by 10 scientists including Columbia University experts Don Melnick, Thomas Hunt Morgan Professor of Conservation Biology, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology; Shahid Naeem, Professor of Ecology, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology; Drew Shindell, a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University; and Geoffrey Heal, Garrett Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility, Columbia School of Business. Reporter’s workshops, led by Andrew Revkin of the New York Times and Arlene Morgan of Columbia University's School of Journalism, followed each day’s lectures.

The conference was co-hosted by Mr. Theodore Kheel at the Punta Cana Resort.

The Center for Environmental Research and Conservation is a consortium of five leading science and education institutions — Columbia University, the American Museum of Natural History, The New York Botanical Garden, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and Wildlife Trust — that employs a wide array of resources to train the next generation of environmental leaders charged with conserving Earth’s biological diversity.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world's leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines — earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences — and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world's poor. For more information, visit