Daniel Janzen, top, and E.O. Wilson will speak and take questions at a free event 6 p.m. Friday in Harvard Square. A fundraising dinner afterward will cost at least $250 to attend. (Photos: Sam Beebe, top; Adam Fagen)

How we understand and protect the wild living world, how we can do these things better and why we should care will be addressed by Harvard’s E.O. Wilson and Daniel Janzen, of the University of Pennsylvania and nonprofit Area de Conservación Guanacaste, at a free lecture and discussion and fundraising dinner Friday.

The money goes to Janzen’s conservation research organization and the land it represents in nouthwestern Costa Rica — a 400,000-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site that is 2 percent of the country and, as a preserver of 350,000 species of plants and animals, 2.6 percent of the world’s biodiversity.

The site is also “at the forefront of genetic ‘barcoding’ research,” said Vaughn Tan, a volunteer for the organization, “and policy research on integrating conservation into local economy and politics.”

Genetic barcoding was well described by MSNBC:

Federal agencies are starting to tap into an ambitious project that is gathering DNA “barcodes” for Earth’s 1.8 million known species — a project that could help shoppers avoid mislabeled toxic pufferfish and show pilots how to steer clear of birds.

A consortium of scientists from almost 50 nations is overseeing the building of a global database made from tiny pieces of genetic material. Called DNA barcoding, the process takes a scientist only a few hours in a lab and about $2 to identify a species from a tissue sample or other piece of genetic material.

“If you’re interested in complex systems, stabilization, management of stochasticity, genetic barcoding, butterflies or tropical paradises, you might be interested to come to one, the other, or both,” Tan said of the lecture and dinner.

Because the 8 p.m. dinner is a high-level fundraiser, the price of seats begins at $250; the site to buy tickets allows tax-deductible donations of up to $4,000, which is described as protecting “one hectare. 2.5 acres. 50 mature trees and many, many smaller living things. Forever.”

All of the proceeds “go directly to the conservation and inventory of biodiversity in the ACG. The event producers take no cut, there is no overhead or bureaucracy to support. Your tax-deductible donation will live on forever,” the site says.

Dinner will be a three-course seasonal menu with house wine selections and vegetarian options at UpStairs on the Square, 91 Winthrop St., Harvard Square.

The public lecture and discussion session starts at 6 p.m. at the Tsai Auditorium, 1730 Cambridge St., Harvard Square. Donations are encouraged.

Wilson and Janzen are considered among the most prominent conservation biologists of this generation. “Ed is a multiple Pulitzer-winning writer and biologist emeritus at Harvard. Dan has won almost every prize for biology and conservation it is possible to win,” Tan said.

In addition to being the Pellegrino University professor, emeritus, at Harvard University, Wilson is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. He is also a recipient of the National Medal of Science, TED Prize and the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He published his first novel, “Anthill,” this year.

Janzen, the Thomas G. and Louise E. DiMaura professor of conservation biology at the University of Pennsylvania, is also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, as well as the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Crafoord Prize and the Kyoto Prize for his work in tropical biology and conservation. Janzen and his wife, Dr. Winnie Hallwachs, have worked for 25 years to restore, expand and endow the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste in perpetuity.

Janzen and the preserve were discussed in this New York Times article. For information about Friday’s event, click here; for tickets, click here.

This post uses material from a press release.