Florida is one of the most biodiverse states, ranking among the top five in the variety of bird and reptile species, according to studies commissioned by The Nature Conservancy.
Unfortunately, Florida is also one of the leading states at risk of species extinction for mammals, birds and reptiles, often a result of human influences such as pollution, increased urbanization and climate changes.
Corey Callaghan is already addressing biodiversity risks in South Florida. He is the latest faculty member and scientist to join the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) as an assistant professor of global ecology.
Stationed at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Callaghan wants to understand and find solutions to global problems in urban environments that impact the sustainability of species variety.
. "We have never been more connected on this planet, and a lot of the problems we face, such as climate change, increasing urbanization and habitat fragmentation, impact all of us," he said. "Global ecology tends to look at these problems with a holistic lens worldwide. My new research group will focus on understanding how to minimize these problems' impacts."
His research will focus on understanding some of the significant challenges in the South Florida region while studying how biodiversity responds to increasing urbanization.
"My work aims to provide adaptive solutions with a focus on understanding how people and nature can flourish sustainably, especially within urban ecosystems," he said. "High biodiversity in cities leads to better physical and mental well-being but achieving high species variety and quantifying it remains challenging."
To address that challenge, Callaghan will develop statewide Extension programming to engage communities with his research, primarily through citizen science programs such as iNaturalist.
Callaghan's first order of business is to engage South Florida residents in a global BioBlitz event known as the City Nature Challenge scheduled for April 28-May 1. The challenge, globally organized by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences, is a friendly competition among cities worldwide to see which can document the most species and engage the most people during those few days each spring. Participants snap photos of the plants, animals, and fungi they find, then enter the records into the iNaturalist platform, which helps wildlife enthusiasts identify species and share their observations. This doubles as a global database on biodiversity.
Callaghan grew up in a small town in Western New York outside of Buffalo and has always been fascinated by nature. He enjoyed fishing, camping, and hiking with his family and later took to birding watching – a hobby that laid the groundwork for his career plans.
"I originally wanted to be a statistician, but one day I saw a short-eared owl hunting in the snow," he said. "The first time I saw that bird species, I was so mesmerized by it diving in the snow that I decided I wanted to work in the wildlife field somehow."
Callaghan earned bachelor's degrees in environmental science and mathematics and statistics from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. He
obtained his graduate degree studying exotic Purple Swamphens in South Florida at Florida Atlantic University before moving to Sydney, Australia, where he studied how biodiversity responds to urban environments for his doctorate at the University of New South Wales.
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