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 2019 Environmental Studies Lecture Series

2019 Maine College Climate Action Summit

Keynote: Reverend Lennox Yearwood, President, Hip Hop Caucus
Saturday, November 9th
9:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m., Diamond Building

Join college students from around Maine for a day of networking, student organizing, workshops, policy solutions, and action to address climate change.

Keynote speaker Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. is a Minister, national leader and community activist committed to mobilizing the Hip Hop generation to utilize its political and social voice as the President and CEO of Hip Hop Caucus.  As a national leader, speaker, and activist in the environmental movement, he has successfully raised awareness of political, civil rights and social justice issues disproportionately impacting communities of color by engaging and building powerful relationships with the Hip Hop community and key environmental leaders.  He is a leading national moral voice on climate and environment.


Lunchtime Lecture Series

Environmental Entrepreneurship: The Logic and Experience of Transforming Your Passion and Vision into a Career

Charles F. Gauvin J.D., Adviser on Strategy, Leadership and Philanthropy
Friday, September 20th
11:30 Lunch, Noon Lecture, Dana

Charles Gauvin’s inspiration to work for the environment first arose when he was a kid living on the shore of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, where he fished and foraged and first encountered the effects of water pollution.  His career during the 1980’s as an activist, teacher, government official, and lawyer engaged him in many of the front-burner issues of the day: clean water, acid rain, and solid waste reduction and recycling.  Then, for the next 20 years, as the CEO of a fish and river conservation group, he had the chance to experience another side of environmentalism, where he grappled with land, water, and fish and wildlife policy issues, leading him closer and closer to confronting today’s (and tomorrow’s) challenge: climate change.  Today, as an adviser to conservation groups and philanthropists, he continues to take on the climate challenge using new approaches and tools.

The common theme in his life since college has been a fusion of passion, vision, and work.  He cannot say for certain whether logic or just plain luck got him here, but his experience has strengthened his understanding of how to approach environmental (and environmental career) challenges strategically.  He will offer some thoughts on how Colby students can blend passion, vision, goals, and strategies and take on our most critical challenges in ways that are effective and personally satisfying.

Diversifying Working Waterfronts

Nick Battista, J.D.
Senior Policy Officer, Island Institute
Friday, October 4th
11:30 Lunch, Noon Lecture, Dana

Nick will present on the work being done by the Island Institute around community building, responding to climate/economic drivers, and the future of coastal communities and the work they are doing with fishermen.  This talk will cover why and how they do this work and the strategies employed to build community through their work.

Complicated tapestries of treeless landscapes: the interrelationships of insects, plants, and nutrients in prairies

Chelse Prather, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, University of Dayton; Director Insect Ecology Lab
Friday, October 11th
11:30 Lunch, Noon Lecture, Dana

Prairies are extremely important for humans, and yet an astonishingly little amount of historical prairies remain. Insects are provide critical ecosystem services in prairie ecosystems, and, as such, understanding the factors that structure their communities is an important ecological endeavor. Our lab is currently engaged in observational and manipulative field experiments coupled with laboratory and greenhouse experiments to determine the various factors that regulate insect community composition in several different prairies across the US. I will show results from a latitudinal study of tallgrass prairies showing how insect community composition influences prairie functioning. Additionally, I will show how our lab tested the relative contributions of limiting nutrients, plant community structure, and disturbances in structuring aboveground and litter insect communities in coastal tallgrass prairies in Texas with a large-scale fertilization experiment. I will also discuss our work determining how invasive species of plants and insects interact in these prairies. Lastly, I will discuss how insect communities may be used to indicate successful prairie restoration in tallgrass prairies in the Midwest. Taken together, these results show the importance of to prairies and the factors regulating insect communities, including micronutrients concentrations, disturbances, species interactions, and land use history in tallgrass prairies across the US.

Reports from the Field: ES Summer Internship Presentations

Environmental Studies Student Internship Grant Recipients
Friday, October 25th
11:30 Lunch, Noon Presentations, Dana

Balance and Imbalance: A Celebration of Nature and a Call to Action

Marnie Sinclair, Visual Artist
Friday, November 15th
11:30 Lunch, Noon Presentations, Dana

The art work and stories in this exhibition are a culmination of 9 years of scientific research on climate change, environmental degradation, and the perfect balance in nature, as witnessed through the magic of plant communication and interspecies symbiotic relationships found in the natural world. Each selected story inspired the accompanying interpretative art.  By breaking down the complex and consequential stories of man’s influence on the planet I have satisfied my own curiosity and hopefully will help to inform others about the challenges that face our time. We need to understand our influences on the natural world, and work to change the trajectory that we are now on. In addition to the art and stories there will also be a film  shown entitled ‘Nature’s Spin through Art,’ which weaves the story of climate change as told by three experts in the field. I have used my art to illustrate their stories. I also have an accompanying book, which shares the same name as the show, and includes most of the work shown in the exhibit plus other relevant work that is no longer available.

Evening Lecture Series

Male elephants & female farmers; conflict to resolution

Kate Evans, Ph.D.
Founder and Director, Elephants for Africa
Thursday, September 26th
7 p.m.,  Olin 1

In recent times the African savannah elephant has recolonized historical rangelands in Botswana due to ecological shifts. This range expansion has brought elephants into increasing contact with rural communities, many of whom have not had to deal with elephants for one or two generations. Elephants for Africa (EfA) works with communities bordering the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park (home to a population of majority male elephants), partnering with farmers and schools to deliver educational programmes to enable them to work towards human-elephant coexistence. The majority of the farmers EfA works with are women, many of whom are grandmothers supporting their extended family through the food they produce. EfA’s holistic approach of understanding the needs of both humans and male elephants in this unique landscape is building the foundations for long-term conservation solutions for Botswana and her elephants alongside the economic stability of rural communities.

The Dam that would not Die: Yamba

Philip Brown, Ph.D.
Department of HIstory, The Ohio State University
Monday, September 30th
4 p.m.,  Miller 14

In the present environmentally conscious era, one that is witnessing sustained and successful efforts to decommission dams, Japan continues to build new dams. After China, the U.S. and India, Japan ranks fourth in the world in the construction of large dams over the past century.  As with most countries, the great majority of large dams were built after the conclusion of World War II.  Similar to North America and Europe, Japan has vocal environmental pressure groups. Yet Japan continues to be a “DamNation.” Through a case study of one dam, Yamba, Brown explores the nature of Japanese planning for large civil engineering projects, post-war democratic reform, and the relative priorities given to local environmental concerns or national economic objectives and political alliances.

Climate Crisis and Indigenous Resistance

Tara Houska
Tribal Attorney
Wednesday, October 2nd
7 p.m.,  Ostrove

Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) is a tribal attorney based in Washington, D.C., the national campaigns director of Honor the Earth and a former adviser on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders.  She advocates on behalf of tribal nations at the local and federal levels on a range of issues impacting indigenous peoples.  She will speak about the months she spent in North Dakota fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the concept of nature rights in relation to water.  Cosponsored by the Oak Institute for Human Rights, the Environmental Studies Program, and the Anthropology Department.

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

Elizabeth Rush
Thursday, October 10th
7 p.m.,  Ostrove

Elizabeth Rush will address the role of activism and writing, including the pressing issues of climate disruption and environmental justice. In Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Rush examines the impact of climate-driven sea level rise on many small communities in Maine and the US – and the world by extension – where coastal marshes and the people living nearby are already losing ground.

Elizabeth Rush is the author of “Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. Her work explores how humans adapt to changes enacted upon them by forces seemingly beyond their control, from ecological transformation to political revolution. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the New York Times, National Geographic, the Guardian, the Atlantic, Harpers, Guernica, Granta, Orion, Creative Nonfiction, The Washington Post, Le Monde Diplomatique, and the New Republic, among others.

Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantlement of African American Neighborhoods in Detroit

Monica Lewis-Patrick
Co-Founder, President, and CEO, We the People of Detroit
Wednesday, October 16th
7 p.m.,  Ostrove

Monica Lewis-Patrick is an educator, entrepreneur, and human rights activist/advocate. She has served as Director of Community Outreach & Engagement since 2009. Monica is actively engaged in struggles on behalf of Detroit residents. She is an active member of the People’s Water Board Coalition, US Human Rights Network, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and, and was named to the World Water Justice Council in October of 2015. As a former Lead Legislative Policy Analyst for Detroit City Council, Monica has authored legislation, conducted research and delivered constituency services to thousands of city residents. Monica attended the historic Bennett College. She is a graduate of East Tennessee State University with a Bachelors degree in Social Work and Sociology and a Masters of Arts of Liberal Studies degree with a concentration in Criminal Justice/Sociology and Public Management. She is currently one of the leaders at the forefront of the water rights struggle in Detroit.

Co-sponsored with the Oak Institute for Human Rights

F. Russell Cole Distinguished Lectureship in Environmental Studies

Urgency & Agency in the Battle to Avert a Climate Crisis

Michael Mann, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Penn State; Director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State
Wednesday, October 30th
7 p.m.,  Ostrove

Human-caused climate change represents arguably the greatest threat we face as a civilization. Efforts to attack and deny the scientific evidence have constituted a major impediment to action over the past two decades. At a time when we appear to be moving past outright denial of the problem, another obstacle has emerged on the scene: Doomist framing that exaggerates the threat in such a way as to make catastrophic changes seem unavoidable. Such framing can lead us down the very same path of inaction as outright denial of the problem. It is important, in the end, to emphasize both urgency AND agency in climate change communication efforts.


Past Environmental Studies Lecture Series

Lunchtime Lecture Series

Jan Plan Internship Presentations

Wednesday, February 13th & 20th
11:30 lunch, 12:00 presentations

Addressing Environmental Challenges through People, Policy & Technology

Jun Ma
Founding Director, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs
Thursday, February 21st
4 p.m., Grossman 209

Jun Ma will introduce the work of China’s environmental NGO- IPE.  More specifically the talk discusses how IPE and its civil society partners have promoted the expansion of public access to environmental information, how IPE’s work has led to major policy shifts in China, and what are the ongoing efforts and massive potential in greening the global supply chain and investment through information technology and increased transparency.

Changing the Narrative: Lawrence’s Resiliency

Lesly Melendez
Deputy Director, Groundwork Lawrence
Wednesday, March 13th
Noon, Silberman Lounge

SHOUT! Week 2019 ES lunchtime environmental justice lecture. Groundwork Lawrence (GWL) has been making change happen since its beginnings in 1999.  Through its environmental and open space improvements, healthy food access programs, youth education, employment initiatives, community programming and events, GWL creates the building blocks of a healthy community, and empowers residents to improve their quality of life.

Groundwork projects transform vacant and often contaminated open spaces into parks, playgrounds, gardens, wooded trails and pathways, promoting healthy pursuits.  Their community food programs, including farmers markets, community gardens, an urban farm, and Share a Share program combine fresh food access with education in an effort to reduce the city’s disproportionately high rates of diet-related disease. GWL also hosts an EPA funded Training for Sustainability Job program, Healthy Living Workshop, youth education, a Green Team, urban tree planting, and water quality research.

Evening Lectures

Farming in Penobscot Bay: Aquaculture and Applied Research on Hurricane Island

Teddy Simpson ’17
Program Manager, Hurricane Island Foundation
Tuesday, February 12th
7 p.m.,  Olin 1

The Hurricane Island Foundation integrates science education, applied research, and leadership development through year-round educational programs and a seasonal, environmentally-sustainable island community. Current research explores community-driven questions in the emerging kelp and scallop aquaculture industries. The foundation engages students, fishermen, scientists, teachers, and community members on the water, in the classroom, and in the lab. Come learn about Hurricane Island, the programs, research, and island community.

2019 Mellon Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Humanities Public Lecture

Mark Dion
Mellon Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Humanities
Wednesday, February 27th
7 p.m.,  Ostrove Auditorium, Diamond Building

Mark Dion is an American conceptual artist whose work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. The job of the artist, he says, is to go against the grain of dominant culture, to challenge perception and convention. Appropriating archaeological, field ecology and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between ‘objective’ (‘rational’) scientific methods and ‘subjective’ (‘irrational’) influences. Dion also frequently collaborates with museums of natural history, aquariums, zoos and other institutions mandated to produce public knowledge on the topic of nature. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Mark Dion questions the objectivity and authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society, tracking how pseudo-science, social agendas and ideology creep into public discourse and knowledge production.

Mark Dion will be visiting Colby College February 26-March 1, 2019. His residency is co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts and Humanities, Colby College Museum of Art, The Lunder Institute, The Environmental Studies Program and the Art Department.

Addressing Environmental Challenges through People, Policy, & Technology

Jun Ma
Founding Director, Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE)
Wednesday, February 27th
4:15 p.m.,  Grossman 209

Jun Ma, journalist, media designer, and environmentalist will introduce the work of China’s envrionmental NGO- IPE.  More specifically, the talk will discuss how IPE and its civil society partners have promoted the expansion of public access to environmental information, how IPE’s work has led to major policy shifts in China, and the ongoing efforts and massive potential in greening the global supply chain and investment through information technology and increased transparency.

Harnessing Remote Sensing and Wireless Sensor Network Technology to Document Environmental Change

David Lutz
Research Assistant Professor, Dartmouth College
Tuesday, March 5th
7 p.m.,  Olin 1

From pole to pole, human societies are increasingly having a notable and negative impact on their surrounding environment through land-use practices. These changes degrade ecological communities and can have social and economic consequences that in turn harm communal well-being. However, the answer to these challenges lie in a deep understanding of environmental processes and the careful observation of environmental patterns and dynamics in an effort to diagnose which management strategies will lead to better outcomes. In recent years, scientists have begun to rely on novel technologies to provide the types of observations necessary to construct better land-use practices. In this talk, I will discuss a few of these technologies, such as Google Earth Engine, hyperspectral remote sensing using unmanned aerial vehicles, and Arduino-based sensor networks, and provide case studies for how we use them in the context of environmental change. Discussing these methods will provide the Colby academic community, with new opportunities for environmental research and will showcase future directions for Colby students who are looking to enter the environmental and engineering fields.

SHOUT! Week 2019 Keynote Speaker

Dr. Carolyn Finney
Environmental Justice Activist, Storyteller, Author, and Cultural Geographer
Monday, March 11th, 7 p.m.,  Lorimer Chapel

Carolyn Finney wrote Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors. Her work challenges us to question whose stories frame or are left out of environmental institutions and issues. The questions she asks and prompts others to ask include: How do stories influence the ways we understand the world? How does representation in organization leadership make a difference in the work that is prioritized? How does race affect the lived experience? Who owns land and occupies space?

Dr. Finney has been a Fulbright Scholar, a Canon National Parks Science Scholar, and has received a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Environmental Studies. Along with public speaking, writing, consulting, and teaching (at Wellesley College, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Kentucky), Carolyn Finney served on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board for 8 years assisting the National Park Service in engaging in relations of reciprocity with diverse communities.

Co-sponsored by PCB, ES, the Center for Arts and Humanities, SGA, SPB, the Pugh Center, COC, English and Creative Writing, and Religious Studies.

Providing Answers about Air Pollution and other Prenatal Environmental Exposures

Abby Fleisch, MD, MPH
Attending Physician, Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, Maine Medical Center
Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Maine Medical Research Institute
Tuesday, April 9th, 7 p.m.,  Diamond 142

Abby Fleisch, MD, MPH, is an environmental health researcher at the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Maine Medical Center Research Institute and a pediatric endocrinologist at Maine Medical Center. Dr. Fleisch received her undergraduate and medical degrees from Northwestern University. She completed residency in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital/Boston Medical Center and fellowship in endocrinology at Boston Children’s Hospital. She participated in the Harvard-wide pediatric health services research fellowship and received a Masters of Public Health from Harvard TH Chan School of
Public Health. After serving on faculty at Boston Children’s Hospital for 3 years, she joined Maine Medical Center in October, 2016.

Dr. Fleisch’s research is focused on the extent to which prenatal and early life environmental exposures such as air pollution or consumer product chemicals are associated with child cardiometabolic health. Dr. Fleisch is the principal investigator of a K23 Career Development Award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Her research has also been funded by an Environmental Health Faculty Development Award at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. She received the Academic Pediatric Association Michael Shannon Research Award in 2012 and an Endocrine Society Early Career
Investigator Award in 2016.

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

Robert Steneck
Professor of Marine Biology
University of Maine’s School of Marine Sciences
Tuesday, April 16th, 7 p.m., Olin 1

Ecosystems can “flip” and, as a result of reinforcing feedback mechanisms, “lock” into alternative stable states. Our group studied patterns and processes that structure Maine’s kelp-forest ecosystem.  Over nearly four decades, we found two stable states: one dominated by green sea urchins and crustose coralline algae and the other by erect fleshy macroalgae.  Sea urchin herbivory drives algal deforestation whereas predators limit sea urchins to maintain the algal forested states.  Maine’s long history of fishing ecosystem-structuring species (first groundfish, then sea urchins) has triggered shifts between alternative states.  Our experiments suggest a surprisingly complex set of events resulted from herbivore-induced changes in habitat architecture that ultimately lead to the ascendency of large crabs (rather than a fish)  in our now “mesopredator”-dominated ecosystem.

THE HUMAN ELEMENT- Film Screening and Discussion with the Director

Matt Testa ’91
Wednesday, April 17th, 7 p.m., Ostrove Auditorium

We humans are a force of nature.  At the same time human activities alter the basic elements of life – earth, air, water, and fire – those elements change human life. In an arresting new documentary from the producers of RACING EXTINCTION, THE COVE, and CHASING ICE, environmental photographer James Balog captures the lives of everyday Americans on the front lines of climate change.  With rare compassion and heart, THE HUMAN ELEMENT’S coast-to-coast series of captivating stories inspires us to reevaluate our relationship with the natural world.

Watch the trailer:


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

Evening Lecture Series

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.