On the 8th of October 2013, Miguel Araújo travels to Berlin to receive the Ebbe Nielsen Prize at the GIBIF (Global Information Biodiversity Facility) Governing Board meeting. This prize is given annually to researchers that “combine biosystematics and biodiversity informatics in an exciting and novel way”.

In making the selection, the GBIF Science Committee recognised Araújo’s groundbreaking research in deploying biodiversity informatics to model and forecast environmental phenomena, specifically the effects of different climate change scenarios on regional and global biodiversity patterns.

Araújo believes the next step in improving understanding of the impacts of climate change is to design ambitious experiments to test the predictions from theoretical models – observing how species actually respond to environmental change under controlled conditions.

He and is group are currently creating a ‘mesocosm’ of 192 artificial ponds in various parts of Portugal and Spain to observe how species interact in various contrasting environments. These ponds will be exposed to different stresses like heat and drought to see how the species communities respond – simulating the impacts of climate change.

Miguel Araújo believes ecologists have been thinking too small in the science they are doing. “In order to answer these big questions that we are facing, and that society is demanding us to answer, we need to think bigger. We need to work collaboratively, in large research networks, and the budgets that we need to be aiming for are comparable to what the physicists and astrophysicists are getting.

“It’s difficult to understand why so much money has been spent trying figuring out if there is life on other planets, and so little has been spent to understand life on our own planet.”

Miguel Araújo receiving the GIBIF Ebbe Nielsen prize at the Natural History Museum of Berlin