Tuesday, 25 October, 2016
Michelle Price (CETAF Chair) and Hans Odöö as Carl Linnaeus

CETAF has celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Royal Botanic Garden of Madrid on October 20th with high-profile speakers and panellists discussing the societal relevance of natural history collections. Accompanied by a historical science legend and the gastronomic natural history-inspired creations of a 2-star Michelin chef, guests of the event were shown what CETAF is all about and what the future could bring to its members.

With some help from Carl Linnaeus himself, CETAF celebrated a magnificent anniversary, marking 20 years of successful collaborations among the major natural history collection facilities in Europe! The event made it clear that the future of our collections is bright as the solutions of many societal challenges rely on the valuable knowledge they provide.

Opening the morning event via video streaming was H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco. As the patron of his environmental foundation, he expressed his concern about the steady decline of global biodiversity and the alarming rate at which the current wave of extinctions proceed. He argued that changing the minds of people requires “a better understanding of the extreme diversity and vast complexity of the species that surround us” and that we need to be “better identifying the means to protect them”. Through education, he added, people will be able to understand what their responsibilities are. Therefore the role of science, and taxonomy in particular, will be pivotal and CETAF will be needed to help address this challenge. Subsequently, Carol Portabella, President of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation in Spain, welcomed the guests with an opening statement on the need for collections to counter environmental decline through biodiversity science.  

Various speakers discussed with the audience, each from their respective fields, on why natural history collections matter. Characteristic of the event was that the panellists were able to bring different perspectives to the fore as they originated from both the world of business and the innovation economy – with Carmen Vela (Spanish Secretary of State for Research, Development and Innovation), Fabrice Magnino (International Business Developer at Imagene) and Javier de la Torre (CEO and Founder of CARTO), natural history institutions – with Ramón Núñez (Science Communicator and Museologist), Juan Luis Arsuaga (Paleoanthropologist and Scientific Director of the Museum of Human Evolution, Burgos), and Michelle Price (CETAF Chair; Head of Science and Curator at the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens of Geneva) and academia – with Carsten Rahbek (Director of the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen). During the coffee break, guests were treated to a wide range of food creations by two-starred Michelin chef, Mario Sandoval, with ingredients inspired by natural history.