Options Magazine, Winter 2023: The IIASA Biodiversity Club offers both a respite from desk work and an opportunity for staff members to bond over encounters with local flora and fauna.

The Biodiversity Club aims to connect IIASA staff members to nature by organizing excursions in and around Laxenburg.

“We offer support to get to know the biodiversity surrounding the institute through citizen science campaigns,” says Martin Jung, a researcher in the IIASA Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program and president of the Biodiversity Club. “For example, we are currently running an IIASA iNaturalist project. iNaturalist is a citizen science platform where users can upload pictures of wild plants and animals.”

So far, the club has collected presence records for over 800 species living in the park surrounding the institute. Recent observations included the European stag beetle, the Armenian blackberry, a plant native to Armenia and Northern Iran, and the woodland grayling, a type of butterfly listed as near threatened.

The regularly scheduled lunchtime “Biodiversity Walks” are popular among IIASA staff.

“Not only are these walks a break from your desk, but they also bring colleagues together to learn and share knowledge about plants and animals encountered during the walk,” says IIASA External Relations Officer Jodey Peyton, who co-organizes the walks.

Club members have also arranged a trip to Lake Neusiedl, a UNESCO World Heritage Site spanning the border of Austria and Hungary, to participate in a bird watching tour. The reed bed of Lake Neusiedl is an important resting place for migratory birds on their way to and from Africa.

By Bettina Greenwell