Welcome to the Species in Peril project at UNM (University of New Mexico). We acknowledge that this project is situated in New Mexico, the traditional homelands of the Indigenous Pueblo, Diné, Apache, and the Ute peoples. We offer our respects to all past and present Native nations, communities and peoples of New Mexico. We also acknowledge that New Mexico provides home to an incredible diversity of animals and plants. 

  • Did you know that New Mexico ranks third nationally (after California and Arizona) in diversity of wild birds? A “desert wasteland” to some, New Mexico harbors nearly 550 wild bird species, which is nearly half of the national avian diversity.
  • Did you know that New Mexico ranks third nationally (after California and Texas) in diversity of native mammals? 
  • Did you know that New Mexico is home to more than a quarter of the native bee species in the U.S.? Of the nearly 4,000 species of native bees that live in the United States, New Mexico is home to about 1,100.
  • Did you know that New Mexico ranks fourth nationally (after California, Texas, and Arizona) in overall diversity of wild animals?

I now share with you a brief history of how the Species in Peril project at UNM got established.

At the turn of this century, a short text with the title “RESOURCES: Species in Peril” was published in the journal Science, which alerted that more than 1,200 animal and plant species in the United States are “in enough trouble to make the federal government’s endangered species list.” Two decades later, an additional more than 500 species have been added to that list—granting the United States the #6 spot on the list of species in peril by nations (after Madagascar, Ecuador, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Mexico), according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species version 2020-2. 

The global picture isn’t encouraging either. In May 2019, a landmark UN biodiversity assessment projected that one million animal and plant species face extinction due to human activity. 

With the UN biodiversity assessment as the impetus, community members across the Rio Grande / Río Bravo watershed in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands came together and organized, during Fall 2019, an expansive project—Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande as a creative response to the crisis. The Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande project was developed by 516 ARTS in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Art & Ecology area in the Department of Art at UNM, in partnership with a large number of arts, academic and cultural institutions in the Rio Grande / Río Bravo watershed. The project included nearly a dozen exhibitions and extensive public programming in northern Chihuahua (Mexico), west Texas, New Mexico and southern Colorado. 

Since 2017, faculty members in the Art & Ecology area in the Department of Art at UNM, in partnership with academic and cultural institutions, and environmental conservation and social justice organizations in New Mexico and around the United States, have organized a number of symposiums and exhibitions that addressed the dual climate and biodiversity crises, with particular attention to species conservation, environmental justice and Indigenous rights. I encourage you to explore the SYMPOSIUMS and the EXHIBITIONS sections on this website to learn more about these efforts. 

The Art & Ecology programming, over the past three years, have been made possible with generous financial support from the Lannan Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

The primary aim of all of our programming has been and continues to be—to build bridges across various academic silos (arts, humanities, sciences, law, planning and public policy, to name a few); between academia and the communities in which we live and work; and between academia and government institutions to contribute to and help shape more just public policies. 

With the experiences that we have gained over the past three years, and the communities that we have now built—in Spring 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we established two modest entities at UNM: the Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities in the Department of Art that will support curricular development and research in Art & Ecology; and the Species in Peril project at UNM that will foster conversations, creative production, public scholarship, and grassroots initiatives to bring attention to the intensifying crisis of biological annihilation, which includes human-caused species extinctions, mass die-offs and massacres. 

During Fall 2020, U.S. Senator Tom Udall and I are co-hosting the UNM Biodiversity Webinar Series which I invite you to attend. This online symposium is FREE and open to the public, but registration is required.

I encourage you to explore the varied resources that you will find on this website, including art, articles, essays, reports, books, and videos. And please consider using these 
FREE online resources in your own teaching, scholarship, creative production, and community organizing to address biological annihilation that maybe happening in your own region.

I close this welcome with what my Gwich’in relatives of Arctic North America taught me. 

Mahsi choo shalak nai (thank you all my relations)!

Subhankar Banerjee

Founder and Director, Species in Peril project at UNM
Professor of Art & Ecology, Lannan Foundation Endowed Chair
Founder and Director, Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities
Department of Art, College of Fine Arts, The University of New Mexico

Banner Image: Dead piñon where birds gather in autumn (detail), from the project Where I Live I Hope to Know, New Mexico. Photo by Subhankar Banerjee, 2009.

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