2016 Scientist Lecture Series

Delve deeper into the issues and conditions that impact the world around us. These free academic lectures allow you to step back into the classroom and learn from the experts.

 

Each lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is required. All programs are held at 7pm at the Warren H. Corning Visitor Center.

 

Elephants and their effects on vegetation.

Thursday, Jan. 21 – David Ward, professor of biological sciences at Kent State University

Ward’s talk will focus on the research he has been conducting on the effects of African elephants on savanna vegetation in eastern South Africa. There is a worldwide ban on elephant hunting because of the severe negative effects on elephant populations, which are killed for the ivory in their tusks. This problem is particularly severe in eastern Africa. In South Africa, which manages its elephants relatively well, this has caused huge negative impacts on the vegetation due to the high population densities of elephants in conservation areas.  

 

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Putting the world in a blender: the spread of invasive species and how it makes the world more similar

Thursday, Feb. 18 – Emily Rauschert, assistant professor of biology at Cleveland State University

Invasive species have been arriving and spreading more rapidly as human global movement has increased. We will examine how the process has unfolded for a new invasive grass, Japanese stiltgrass, which interferes with forest regeneration. We will also discuss how the many invasions currently unfolding are major contributors to biotic homogenization, an increase in the similarity of biological communities observed worldwide.

 

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Out on a Limb – Exploration of Global Forest Canopies

Friday, April 29 – Join us for our special Arbor Day lecture, featuring Meg Lowman, chief of science and sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences. Lowman is internationally known for her tree canopy research and is the author of Life in the Treetops.

 

Kids love climbing trees, and our human ancestors may have originally lived in trees. With a great deal of perspiration, and perhaps a smaller amount of inspiration, scientists have discovered a new frontier high above the forest floor, but only in the last 30 years. As one of the world’s first “arbornauts,”  Lowman designs and uses tools including hot air balloons, ropes, ladders, scaffolds and elevated walkways to explore the treetops, home to approximately half of planet Earth’s biodiversity. Such canopy exploration is not only changing our understanding of the importance of forests, but it also inspires conservation and education. As the interface between earth and sky, forest canopies function as important machines that provide benefits to all of us -- climate regulation, medicines, food, fresh water cycling, and cultural heritage are just some of the important functions of forests. New methods for access into the treetops have also promoted ecotourism, sustainable harvest of medicines and fruits, and led to the discovery of many new species that live exclusively above-ground. But perhaps most important, forest canopy research provides a “hook” to inspire kids, families and policy-makers to appreciate the value of forests for human health.

 

In this talk, Lowman takes us into the treetops of the Amazon, Ethiopia, and Australia to illustrate the links between canopy exploration and forest conservation. If we all work together to conserve global forests, our children and grand-children will thank us. 

 

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The Return of the American Chestnut

Thursday, May 19 – Allison Dealton Oakes, research assistant at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry

 

As a keystone species and mast-producing canopy tree, the loss of the American chestnut from the Eastern US was an ecological and economic disaster for the region more than a hundred years ago. This native species, once classified as functionally extinct, is now poised to make a comeback thanks to modern technology and ground-breaking research. The American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project will share their inspiring success story, and elaborate on how genetic engineering can benefit the fields of conservation and restoration.

 

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Climate change and the reshuffling of ecological communities

Thursday, July 14 – Jeff Diez, assistant professor of Plant Ecology at the University of California - Riverside.

 

Climate change, landscape development, and species invasions are reshuffling ecological communities around the globe. These processes can lead to the loss of biodiversity and changes in ecosystem functions, but also offer an interesting lens through which we can view our place in a dynamic world. In this talk I will present an overview of current research on how ecosystems are changing, with a particular focus on plant and fungal communities, and speculate on the ecological changes to come in the 21st century.

 

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