A group of speakers selected to embody the past, present, and future of plant science portrayed life's diversity as being in a precarious situation. Half the species on the planet could be wiped out by the end of the century, some say. "We are playing the endgame," said Edward O. Wilson, Pellegrino University professor and curator of entomology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University. The inauguration of a multimillion-dollar plant science center at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx served as the setting for researchers to ponder the future of conservation and biodiversity research at a symposium on May 1. Speakers expressed hope that research and conservation efforts can overcome political strife and that Earth's rich biodiversity can be explored, cataloged, and saved before it disappears.

The future takes root at the crossroads of classic field research and new technology. Michael Balick, vice president...

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