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 2022 Environmental Studies Lecture Series

Lunchtime Lecture Series

Lunch Discussion with T.J. Demos

Director and Founder, Center for Creative Ecologies, UC Santa Cruz
Thursday, September 15th
Diamond 123

TJ Demos’ research focuses on the intersections of contemporary art, radical politics, and ecology– particularly where art, activism, and visual culture oppose racial, colonial, and extractive capitalism, and where they work towards social, economic, and environmental justice.

The Colby Museum of Art will host a public talk at 5:00 p.m. in Ostrove offering a reading of select aesthetic practices that connect with climate justice- specifically the analysis of climate propaganda by Jonas Staal; the forensic racial justice investigations of Imani Jacqueline Brown and Forensic Architecture; and the Indigenous futurism of Thirza Jean Cuthand.

The role of canopy gap dynamics in the nitrogen cycle of Neotropical rainforests

Lindsay McCulloch
Friday, September 16th

Noon, Dana

Symbiotic nitrogen (N) fixation is a mutualistic relationship that occurs between legume plants and bacteria, and is pathway in which most N enters Neotropical rainforests. This N may be critical to supporting the continued growth of these ecosystems that play an outsized role in carbon capture for the globe. Canopy gaps are naturally occurring disturbances in Neotropical rainforests can alter these important biogeochemical cycles of N and carbon. When a tree, or several trees, fall in the forest and create an opening the canopy the microenvironment changes in ways that may favor symbiotic N fixation. We utilize a series of manipulative field experiments and observation studies to understand the canopy gap effect on symbiotic N fixation and its abiotic and biotic drivers to inform landscape-scale estimates of N fixation.

Dr. Lindsay McCulloch studies plant-microbe interactions (symbiotic nitrogen fixation and mycorrhizal fungi) to better understand tropical forest biogeochemistry. She is interested in how these symbioses influence how tropical forests respond to disturbance and a changing climate.

Reports from the Field: Jan Plan Internship and Research Presentations

Colby ES Students
Friday, September 23rd

ES grant funded students will present about their experiences and learning gained from summer internships and research opportunities.

Sites Unseen: How Industrial Pasts Haunt our Urban Futures

Scott Frickel, Professor of Sociology and Environment & Society, Brown University
Community Engagement Core Leader, Brown Superfund Research Program
Thursday, September 29th
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Diamond 153

This talk is an urban ghost story, of sorts. It describes how chemical legacies of past industrial activities become incrementally invisible even as they accumulate over time and space. These invisible risks complicate questions of environmental justice in the present and render urban communities ever more vulnerable in a future characterized by climate change. The study is informed by spatial and historical comparison of hazardous waste site accumulation in four major U.S. cities and holds important lessons for urban and environmental sociology.

Scott Frickel is Professor of Sociology and Environment & Society at Brown University and Community Engagement Core Leader for the Brown Superfund Research Program. He is the author of six books, mostly recently the multi-authored Residues: Thinking through Chemical Environments, published by Rutgers University Press (2022). This talk is based on his previous book from 2018 with James R. Elliott, Sites Unseen: Uncovering Hidden Hazards in American Cities (Russell Sage Foundation and ASA Rose Series in Sociology).

Reports from the Field: Jan Plan Internship and Research Presentations

Colby ES Students
Friday, September 30th

ES grant funded students will present about their experiences and learning gained from summer internships and research opportunities.

Walden Warming: Climate change comes to Thoreau’s Concord

Dr. Richard Primack
Friday, October 28th

Richard Primack is a Professor of Biology at Boston University with research interests in plant ecology, conservation biology, climate change biology, citizen science, and tropical rain forests. He has published over 200 scientific papers, and carried out extensive fieldwork in Malaysia, New Zealand, Japan, Central America, United States, and other countries. He has served as the President of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, and is an Honorary Fellow of that society. He has current appointments as the Distinguished Overseas Professor at the Northeast Forestry University in Harbin, China, and a Humboldt Research Awardee in Germany. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Biological Conservation and author of two widely used textbooks, Essentials of Conservation Biology and A Primer of Conservation Biology; for which 34 foreign language editions have been produced with local co-authors adding in examples from their own countries. He is also co-author of the book Tropical Rain Forests: An Ecological and Biogeographical Comparison.

For the past 14 years, Prof. Primack and his colleagues have been investigating the effects of a warming climate on the plants and birds of Massachusetts, with an emphasis on continuing the observations made 160 years ago by Henry David Thoreau in Concord. The work has also included experimental investigations of the environmental triggers of leaf out using dormant twigs, and the establishment of an international network of botanical gardens to monitor leaf out times in the spring and leaf senescence times in the autumn. Prof. Primack has been involved in educating the public about the effects of climate change through public talks and popular writing, including a recent book about his work: Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods. His work has often been featured in the popular, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and National Geographic magazine.

Marine Protected Areas—“Island Style”

Dr. Dayne Buddo, Director of External Engagement, Georgia Aquarium
Friday, November 4th

Islands are often described as “Ocean States” as they have a significantly larger marine space than actual land space, underscoring the importance of protection of the marine resources. These island countries are very vulnerable to climate change and have unique ecological, cultural and socioeconomic nuances that shape the way marine protected areas are managed. The sometimes low-tech methods are highly effective under very challenging conditions.

During the talk, I will share my experience in the Caribbean, especially from my home nation Jamaica and how scientists, policy-makers, community stakeholders, artists and musicians function in “chaotic harmony” towards protection of the marine life.

As the Director of External Engagement, Dr. Dayne Buddo is responsible for deepening our service ties to the community at the local, state, national and international levels. Prior to joining Georgia Aquarium, Dr. Buddo was the Director of the Bay Academy – Bay Ecotarium, San Francisco CA, USA. Before moving to the United States, he served as a tenured faculty member at the University of the West Indies (Jamaica) in marine sciences for a decade, with responsibility for marine research and teaching at the Discovery Bay Marine Lab. Dr. Buddo was also CEO and Research Director for the Alligator Head Foundation and Marine Lab focusing on marine protected areas. He was also the Marine Conservation Adviser for the TBA21-Academy, an Art Foundation in Europe centered on ocean conservation and climate change.

The Barnacle and the Boat: Biofouling and the Multispecies Intimacies of Underwater Mediation

Lisa Han, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies, Dept. of English, AZ State University
Friday, November 11th

Where do we locate foulness? In the boat that spills toxins into the ocean, or the barnacles and slimy weeds that cling to our boats? In the wake of anthropogenic climate change and existential threats to the health of our oceans, Lisa Han examines the role of underwater technologies in mediating and transforming the seas for human benefit. In particular, she turns to the cultural history of techniques developed to cleanse boats, cameras, and other ocean platforms and keep them clear of encroaching aquatic life. Countering tendencies to presume a separation between “non-invasive” processes of representation and the physical environments being represented, Lisa’s work brings attention to the multispecies entanglements that have long shadowed the development of aquatic technology and underwater media infrastructure.

Lisa Yin Han is a critical media studies scholar working across the realms of environmental media studies, the blue humanities, and science and technology studies. Her research investigates the intersections between digital media, media infrastructures, and the environment, with a particular focus on ocean media. Her current project examines the material and semiotic remaking of the seafloor through industrial, state, and scientific production of underwater media infrastructure. This includes explorations of visual media, sensor networks, and sound-based media, and the history of their operations in particular social and environmental milieus.

Environmental Narratives for Social Change: Integrating Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson
Friday, December 2nd

Ecocriticism and environmental communication, the humanities and social sciences, are both concerned with the way that environmental communication and narrative might better help us address the burning socio-ecological issues we face. But they remain siloed, rarely if ever speaking to each other. In this talk I’ll discuss how empirical ecocriticism, a new interfield I’ve been developing with colleagues, might help us integrate these two approaches so that we might better understand how environmental narratives can contribute to the social change that this moment demands.

Evening Lecture Series

“The Obligation to Endure”: Rachel Carson’s lasting legacy

Gail Carlson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Tuesday, September 20th
7:00 p.m.
Brewster Reading Room, Miller Library

60 years ago, one of the most influential books of the 20th century, Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” was published. This book sounded the alarm on the broad risks of unregulated hazardous pesticide usage, including to humans, inserting us squarely in nature. Her research and writing inspired new areas of environmental science, policy-making and advocacy. She also wrote extensively and poetically about the natural world, notably about oceans and coastal ecosystems. Carson’s life, writings and legacy will be discussed through a series of short readings of her work.

Plastic Litter in freshwaters: Abundance, movement, and biological interactions

Timothy Hoellein, Associate Professor, Loyola University of Chicago
Tuesday, October 11th
7 p.m.

Humans introduce synthetic materials into freshwaters that span a size gradient from dissolved compounds such as nutrients and pharmaceuticals, to suspended particles like nanomaterials, microplastic, (i.e., <5 mm particles), and garbage (i.e., anthropogenic litter; AL). Because it is visually conspicuous and abundant worldwide, the study of AL is a rapidly growing field in marine ecology. Marine AL has several fates, including accumulation on coastal and benthic zones, ingestion, and breakdown into smaller pieces. Rivers are cited as a major source of AL to oceans, but the sources, movement, retention, and interactions of AL with riverine biota are rarely studied. The ecology of AL in rivers is a critical, but unknown piece of the global AL “life cycle.” Our research group has been conducting research on AL and microplastic ecology in rivers. Our overarching objectives are 1) to use the principles and fundamental tools of stream ecology to place data from rivers solidly within the field of global AL research, 2) study the physical, chemical, and biological drivers of AL dynamics in rivers, and 3) reveal basic ecological principles which drive ecosystem function in urban rivers. These data and conceptual approaches will contribute to tools that reduce AL abundance and ecosystem impacts.

AI Research for Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability

Claire Monteleoni, Associate Professor of Computer Science, University of Colorado Boulder
Tuesday, October 18th
7 p.m.

Dr. Monteleoni will provide an overview of her climate informatics research, focusing on changes in learning spatiotemporal data, unsupervised deep learning approaches to studying rare and extreme events, and precipitation and temperature downscaling.

The Clean Water Act at 50

Panel moderated by Dr. Philip Nyhus
Tuesday, November 1st
7 p.m.

Food for Thought Panel

Gail Carlson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Monday, November 7th

As Long as Grass Grows

Dina Gilio-Whitaker, lecturer of American Indian Studies, CA State University San Marcos
Monday, November 14th
7 p.m.
Ostrove Auditorium

Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos, and an independent consultant and educator in environmental justice policy planning. At CSUSM she teaches courses on environmentalism and American Indians, traditional ecological knowledge, religion and philosophy, Native women’s activism, American Indians and sports, and decolonization. She also works within the field of critical sports studies, examining the intersections of indigeneity and the sport of surfing. As a public intellectual, Dina brings her scholarship into focus as an award-winning journalist as well, contributing to numerous online outlets including Indian Country Today, the Los Angeles Times, High Country News and many more. Dina is co-author with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz of Beacon Press’s “All the Real Indians Died Off”: And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans (2016), and her most recent book, As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock, was released in 2019.