The Environmental Studies Program runs a robust lecture series during the fall and spring semesters.  We seek top thinkers and researchers in their field and bring them to campus to meet with our students, share a meal, and give a lecture.  The lecture series is broken up into an evening series and a lunchtime series.  While the lecture series is specifically geared to our students and the current semesters courses they are free and open to the public.


Fall 2018 Environmental Studies Lecture Series

Lunchtime Lecture Series

Where in the World Did ES Majors Spend Their Summers?

Wednesday, September 12 & Wednesday September 19
Smith-Robins Room, Roberts
11:30 lunch, 12:00 presentations


Getting there from here: The role of implementation research in advancing global nutrition agendas

Dr. Andrea Warren
Research Associate, Colby College
Wednesday, September 26
11:30 lunch, 12:00 research talk

For the past decade, the goal of improving population-level nutritional status by way of targeting maternal and child nutrition in the first 1000 days of life has received unprecedented attention in low- and middle-income countries. Drawing on examples from my research into the mid-level implementing actors in Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program, as well as research into a donor strategy for nutrition programming in Kenya and India, I will discuss how implementation research can address a critical knowledge gap around how and why global nutrition policies and programs achieve, or fail to achieve, their goals, provide actionable guidance for improvements, and help sustain global commitment to nutrition goals.


Washington Watch: Threats to Maine’s Environment

Emmie Theberge
Federal Project Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine
Wednesday, October 31
11:30 lunch, 12:00 presentation

Hear from Emmie Theberge (’08), Federal Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, about current threats coming from the Trump Administration and Congress that could hurt Maine’s clean air, water, wildlife, and climate—and what you can do to help protect Maine’s environment.

Title TBA

Dr. Justin Becknell
Assistant Professor Environmental Studies Program, Colby College
Wednesday, November 14
11:30 lunch, 12:00 research talk


Collaborative Conservation and the Future of Belgrade Lakes Woods and Waters

Laura Rose Day, CEO, 7 Lakes Alliance
Tuesday, September 18,  7:00pm, Olin 1


Trespassing across America: One Man’s Epic, Never-Done-Before (and sort of Illegal) Hike along the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Ken Ilguanas, author
Tuesday, October 9, 7pm. Olin 1

Ken Ilgunas walked nearly 2,000 miles across North America, following the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline, from Hardisty, Alberta, to the Gulf Coast of Texas. On his journey Ken encountered stampedes of cows, charging moose, and climate change deniers. Come learn about Ken’s adventure, the world’s first modern journey across private property, on which he trespassed over one of the most ignored, yet beautiful, regions of our continent–the Great Plains. He’ll talk about the people of the heartland, the right to roam, and the stories that form the basis of his book, Trespassing across America.


PlanetVision: A Global Plan to Build a Better, More Sustainable Future

Dr. Jon Foley, California Academy of Science
F. Russell Cole Distinguished Lecturer in Environmental Studies
Tuesday, October 23, 7:00pm, Ostrove Auditorium

Climate change… Extreme weather events… Tropical deforestation… Worldwide overfishing… Plastics in the ocean… Collapsing water supplies… Emerging threats to our health, economy, and security…

The news on the global environmental front is grim.  But what if there was a practical plan, based on the latest science, that could turn it around, and help us build a better future?  That’s what PlanetVision is all about. PlanetVision is a multi-faceted set of solutions – focused on fixing the world’s food, water, and energy systems – that can help us pivot to a better, more sustainable world.

Rich with the latest insights from environmental science, emerging solutions from every part of the globe, powerfully motivating stories of practical solutions, and beautiful images, this presentation speaks to broad audiences, giving them a sense of hope for the future.


Flips, locks and feedbacks: The lasting effects of fisheries on Maine’s kelp forest ecosystem

Dr. Robert Steneck
Professor, University of Maine School of Marine Sciences
Fall 2018 Hollis Lecturer in Environmental Studies

Tuesday, November 27, 7:00pm, Olin 1

Ecosystems can “flip” and, as a result of reinforcing feedback mechanisms, “lock” into alternative stable states. We studied this process in a kelp-forest ecosystem in Maine, USA, for nearly four decades and found two stable states: one dominated by green sea urchins and crustose coralline algae and the other by erect fleshy macroalgae. Herbivory by urchins drives algal deforestation but declined after fishing for sea urchins began in 1987. As the fishery expanded northeastward, so did phase shifts to macroalgae. By 2000, macroalgae dominated nearly all of coastal Maine. Monitoring newly settled sea urchins between 1996 and 2002 revealed sites with thousands of settlers per meter square per year, but virtually none survived to become adults. Algal succession to densely branched morphologies may create nursery habitat for settling crabs that prey on settling sea urchins. Experiments intended to restore herbivory to prefishing levels, through translocation of 51,000 adult sea urchins over two consecutive years at multiple release sites (with controls), resulted in complete urchin mortality both years as a result of predation by large migratory Cancer borealis Stimpson, 1859 crabs. Population densities of this crab increased fivefold coastwide soon after the macroalgal phase shift. Persistent absence of urchins (even in no-take reserves) probably resulted from predation on newly settled and/or adult urchins. Fisheries-induced declines in herbivory may therefore have improved recruitment potential for predatory crabs that then became the region’s new apex predator. Cascading sequential processes of herbivory, recruitment, and predation create reinforcing feedback, effectively locking this ecosystem into alternative stable states.


Professional Development Series

Elevator Pitch: How to Tell Your Story

Thursday, September 20, two sessions
3:00pm Grossman 209 & 7:00m Location TBD


Mock Interviews
Thursday, October 4
Tray dinner, 5:30pm
Mock interviews, 7:00pm


How to Write a Successful Grant Application
October 30
3:00pm and 7:00pm

ES Seminar Room

Other Events

Info Session on Grad School, scholarship and internships

Tuesday, September 25th, 7:00pm-8:30pm, Olin 1

Off Campus Study Info Session

Wednesday, November 7th, 7:00pm-8:30pm, Location TBD

Spring 2018 Environmental Studies Lecture Series

Lunchtime Lectures

Where in the World Did ES Majors Spend their Jan Plans: Reports from the field

February 14, 11:30 lunch, Presentations start promptly at 12:00pm, Fairchild Room, Dana

Students provide short presentations on their Jan Plan internship experiences


The fate of Macrobiotus americanus

Dr. Emma Perry, Professor of Marine Biology, Unity College

February 28, 11:30 lunch, 12:00 presentation

The first tardigrade documented in the Americas was obtained from New Gloucester, Maine in the Nineteenth Century. However, a series of mistakes in the literature were combined with a poor initial description of this tardigrade. Recent sampling of the original location identified several candidate species, however the data were not conclusive. Macrobiotus americanus may thus fade into obscurity sadly.


The Materials Movement: Employing Transparency and Purchasing Power for Market Transformation

Emma Reif ’16, Consultant, Thorton Tomasetti

March 14, 2018, 11:30 lunch, 12:00 lecture, Fairchild Room, Dana

Building materials are responsible for many environmental issues throughout their life cycle, including human illness, pollution, habitat and species loss, and resource depletion. How do you design a building with a low environmental impact that promotes occupant health? Thornton Tomasetti is partnering with higher education institutions and designers to reduce and eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in the manufacturing processes of building materials. The team will share how their experience as advocates for increased industry transparency has contributed to a responsible materials market.


Can Beauty Save the World?

Tuesday, March 20th, 11:30 lunch, 12:00 lecture, Fairchild Room, Dana

John deGraaf

John de Graaf, founder and outreach director of the AND BEAUTY FOR ALL CAMPAIGN ( contends that a new focus on natural beauty and human design, restoring ecosystems and revitalizing communities can help bring polarized Americans together toward great justice and sustainability. Is he right? Come and judge for yourself! And prepare to be inspired…


Working at the science-management nexus: putting science to work for climate change adaptation

Wednesday, April 11, 11:30 lunch, 12:00 lecture, Fairchild Room, Dana

Dr. Nicholas Fisichelli, Forest Ecology Director,  Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park

Ongoing and future climate change challenges land managers in the region to protect current and future ecosystems. Some species will be able to weather these changes and remain part of the landscape, other species may decline due to increasing stress, and still other species currently found further south may expand their ranges north into Maine. Which species will thrive and which will struggle? Do managers resist change to preserve past conditions or facilitate change towards desired new conditions? These are some of the challenging questions facing ecology and conservation. In this talk, I’ll discuss some research efforts to understand responses to climate change and climate adaptation approaches to guide management actions.


Reading Comics and Graphic Literature in a Time of Environmental Crisis

Wednesday, April 25, 11:30 lunch, 12:00 lecture, Fairchild Room, Dana

Dr. Thomas Doran, Assistant Professor, Rhode Island School of Design

What role can comics and other forms of literary-visual art play in our conversations about the environment? This talk explores how comics-art functions as a unique medium for telling stories about how humans and other animals relate to their environments, focusing especially on the form’s capacity for representing time, space, and interspecies consciousness. Doran also discusses the role artists play in expanding our understanding of the cultural dimensions of environmental crisis.

Evening Lectures

Protecting Land and Creating Parks for People

Tuesday, February 13th, Diamond 122, 7:00pm

Bill Toomey, Northern New England Region Director, Trust for Public Land

At the Trust for Public Land, we don’t just save land—we save land for people to enjoy, from neighborhood parks to national parks. We depend on the ongoing support of individuals to make sure our work carries on well into the future. Our mission is to create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Every park, playground, and public space we create is an open invitation to explore, wonder, discover, and play. We’re proud to say that we’ve been connecting communities to the outdoors—and to each other—since 1972. Today, millions of Americans live within a 10-minute walk of a park or natural area we helped create, and countless more visit every year. For more than 25 years, The Trust for Public Land has been working in Maine and has protected over 170,000 acres, worked in communities all over the state and has created parks and trails in Portland. Our mission of protecting public lands for all people to enjoy is more urgent than ever before. Come join the discussion and learn how you can get involved.


Oak Spring Lecture – Moving Our Most Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving

Tuesday, March 6th, Location Ostrove 7:00pm

Mustafa Ali, The Hip Hop Caucus

Mustafa Ali is the Senior Vice President of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus.  The Hip Hop Caucus is a national, non-profit and non-partisan organization that connects the Hip Hop community to the civic process to build power and create positive change. As HHC Senior Vice President, he leads the strategic direction,expansion andoperation of the Hip Hop Caucus’ portfolio on Climate, Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization.  Mustafa is renowned as a National Speaker, Trainer and Facilitator specializing in Social Justice issues focused on revitalizing our most vulnerable communities. Throughout his career, Mr. Ali has conducted over 1,000 presentations across the country, including speeches, guest lecturers and trainings. He has also worked with over 500 domestic and international communities to secure environmental, health and economic justice. Mustafa Ali joined the Hip Hop Caucus, after working 24 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


The Future: Climate, Technology and Society

Wednesday, March 21, 7:00pm, Ostrove Auditorium, Diamond

Kim Stanley Robinson, Author and Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Fellow In Environmental Humanities, Colby College

Arrangements for the appearance of Kim Stanley Robinson made through Hachette Speakers Bureau, New York, NY


A Consumer Economist’s Foray into the World of Genetic Engineering (GE) of food

Tuesday, April 10, 7:00pm, Olin 1

Dr. Jane Kolodinsky, Chair, Dept. of Community Development and Applied Economics; Director, Center for Rural Studies, University of Vermont

A foray is defined as an attempt to become involved in a new activity or sphere OR an incursion into enemy territory. For a consumer economist who studies genetically engineered food policy, both definitions fit. This talk includes the history of the introduction of GE food into the food supply, a discussion of the regulatory process, and the current state of the regulation of GE food, including labeling.


Quantifying the effects of floodplain restoration and winter cover crops on nutrient export from agricultural catchments

Tuesday, April 17, 7:00pm, Olin 1

Dr. Jen Tank, Galla Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame

Excess nutrient runoff from agricultural fields can enter nearby streams and rivers, harming sensitive species, contaminating water supplies, and fueling downstream algal blooms and low-oxygen “dead zones”. Our research examines the benefit of two conservation strategies that potentially prevent excess nutrients from being transported to downstream ecosystems: one practice implemented in waterways combined with one applied to the surrounding landscape. We have paired the restoration of floodplains in formerly channelized ditches with the planting winter cover crops in agricultural fields and are quantifying their potential to reduce runoff of excess fertilizer nutrients into agricultural streams, especially during vulnerable periods in winter and spring. Together, we predict these practices will reduce nitrogen and phosphorus headed for sensitive coastal systems that are vulnerable to algal blooms and subsequent hypoxic zones.

Fall 2017 Environmental Studies Lecture Series

Lunchtime Lectures

Where in the World Did ES Majors Spend their summers:  Reports from the field

September 13, 11:30-1:00, Fairchild Room, Dana

Students provide short presentations on their summer internship experiences


Bees, Bikes, and Buildings

September 27, 11:30-1:00, Fairchild Room, Dana
Mina Amundsen, Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Campus Planning, Colby

Colby is one of five carbon neutral campuses in the US. While carbon neutrality refers to energy use and emissions, there are many facets to campus sustainability. Mina Amundsen, AVP for Facilities and Campus Planning, will talk about the broad-based approach to sustainability at Colby, accomplishments and ongoing initiatives, and how the campus community can participate. Mina will also introduce Sandy Beauregard ’06, Colby’s new Director of Sustainability.


Colby to Malting: Practicing Sustainable Development in Maine

October 11, 11:30-1:00, Fairchild Room, Dana
Environmental studies alumni Joel Alex ’08 shares his path from Colby to owning and operating North America’s largest floor malting facility. From community mapping to declining admittance to graduate school, Joel will talk about and answer questions on his experiences and insights while applying sustainable development principles at home.

Joel Alex ’08 founded and runs Blue Ox Malthouse in Lisbon Falls, Maine. He currently sits on the boards of the North American Craft Maltsters Guild and The Ecology School where he previous worked as an ecology educator and has diverse professional backgrounds in education, community mapping/GIS, and conservation land management.


From Colby to grad school, studying dam management

November 1, 11:30-1:00, Fairchild Room, Dana
Andrew Newcomb, Colby alum, working towards his MS in Climate and Earth Sciences at UMO.


Dams constitute a severe disturbance for a river’s hydrologic regime. The Penobscot River in Maine has a long history of human alteration by dams, and recently of river restoration by dam removal. Dams control the routing of water within a river channel, and thus regulate flow regime and storage. We identified six single-objective dam management scenarios based on the interests of various stakeholder groups in the watershed: normal operation, hydropower production, water resources, flood control, fish passage, and recreation. We examine the tradeoffs associated with these scenarios by comparing the resulting hydrologic regimes. The performance of each scenario is judged by their achievement of stakeholder desired target conditions (i.e. flow, water level) from each scenario. We then assess management scenario performance in different climate and landuse scenarios to predict future hydrologic regimes and how dams may mitigate or enhance the effects of climate change. Hydrologic regime is expressed as a flow duration curve, which we generate from simulated time series of river flow and reservoir storage throughout the Penobscot Watershed. Our model is developed using ArcGIS and the Army Corps of Engineers’ HEC-HMS platform, and simulates the runoff and routing response to input rainfall time series. This project will help stakeholders to understand how dam management affects water levels and what practices could better achieve each stakeholder group’s performance targets.

What are the Environmental Humanities? An introduction to the field and careers

November 15, 11:30-1:00, Fairchild Room, Dana
Chris Walker, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Humanities

Christopher Walker is Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Humanities at Colby College. He received his J.D. from Columbia Law School and Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His book project, Narratives of Decay, considers authors, artists, and scientists who speculate on environmental futures.


Evening Lectures

Democracy in a Hotter Time

September 19, 7pm. Olin 1

David Orr, Counselor to the President Oberlin College and Paul Sears Distinguished Professor

of Environmental Studies & Politics, Emeritus.

The present crisis in U.S. democracy has its origins in our history and political system. Much the same can be said for our slow and inadequate response to climate change now underway. These and similar problems in public policy are the result of the breakdown in democratic institutions. The path forward requires repairing and strengthening the capacities of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.


Jeanette Unite: Artists Talk

Jeanette Unite, artist from South Africa

Co-sponsoring with Geology
Tuesday, October 3, 7pm, Olin 1


The Quest for Sustainable Seas
Dr. Sylvia Earle, Inaugural F. Russell Cole Distinguished Lecturer in Environmental Studies
Wednesday, October 18th, 7pm, Page Commons

Sylvia Earle demonstrates how the ocean provides the underpinning of our economy, health, security, and the existence of life itself. Once thought to be infinitely resilient, the ocean is in trouble, and therefore, so are we. With equal parts warning and hope, she shows us how actions we take in the next ten years will matter more than what we do in the next one hundred years.


Costly Cats: Supply and Demand Drivers of the Black Market Trade in Tigers, Lions, Cheetahs and Snow Leopards
Kristen Nowell, CAT Specialist Group
Tuesday, October 24, 7pm, Olin 1

Illegal trade poses a grave threat to these big cats, driven by financial motivations of those who poach, sell and buy.  The black market for each species is driven to varying degrees by supply (both from the wild and from modern industrial captive breeding or “farming”) and by consumer demand.  These drivers include potential and actual costs of rural people living near predators which pose risks to life and livestock-based livelihoods, and perceived social status value on the part of relatively wealthy urban consumers, who are often motivated by sellers putting a modern spin on ancient traditions.  While each of these markets is unique, they are also inter-linked: e.g., lions are being increasingly drawn into the tiger trade.  Regulatory and enforcement efforts undertaken by governments over the past 25 years through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have achieved limited success, which could be undermined by one of the outcomes of negotiations at last year’s meeting.


Multi-event day with documentary filmmakers Gary Marcuse and Liu Jianqiang

Monday, November 6th

12pm-1pm, lunch event, getting started in documentary film  and internship opportunities on environmental protection in China
1pm-2:15pm,  class meeting, Environmental Humanities: Stories of Crisis and Resilience.
4pm-5pm, Gary Marcuse lecture, Global Environmental Justice Documentaries–with the focus on Asia
5:30-7:00pm, tray dinner and lecture Liu Jianqiang, Tibetan Culture and Enviro Protection
7:00pm- 8:45, film screening and Q&A,  “Waking the Green Tiger” (2011), a film about the green activism and the dam-building in Southwest China.


Chakaia Booker: Artist’s Talk
Cakaia Brooker, artist

Co-sponsoring with the Art Department and the Museum of Art
Tuesday, Nov 28, 5pm, Given Auditorium

In this lecture, sculptor Chakaia Booker reflects on her work, which uses discarded tires and other construction materials to explore ecological concerns, racial and economic difference, gender, and globalization.

You can read more about Chakaia’s sculptures here: