2018 Sustaining Our World Lecture: Jonathan Foley

Guest Post by Daniel S. Feinberg, SEFS Staff Assistant and Ph.D. Candidate

On Thursday, April 26, SEFS had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Jonathan Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, for the annual Sustaining Our World Lecture, along with a variety of other activities throughout the day. Dr. Foley studies global sustainability and is one of the most cited environmental scientists in the world.

Picture of Dr. Jonathan Foley.

Dr. Jonathan Foley

Dr. Foley’s visit began with an informal lunch and discussion that touched on topics such as the accessibility (or lack thereof) of scientific journals, as well as the need for scientists to inspire children from under-represented communities. He also expressed his appreciation for the intersection of science and art, which manifests itself through exhibits at the California Academy. Following the discussion, Dr. Foley spent the afternoon in individual meetings with faculty members to explore shared interests and potential opportunities for collaboration.

Although Dr. Foley began his lecture with examples of pressing environmental problems (e.g., methane pollution from cows), he went on to offer corresponding solutions (e.g., eating less red meat). He described the perceived state of political polarization in the U.S. and its implications for climate change, noting that many Americans are actually undecided and might still be swayed to support or oppose climate action.

Dr. Foley described himself as having hope for the future, without being blindly optimistic; he stressed that we (i.e., humans) must take it upon ourselves to create a better world, rather than waiting for an invisible hand to correct our errors. The California Academy’s Planet Vision initiative provides specific guidance for how we can start to make changes in our day-to-day lives.

Dr. Jonathan Foley is joined by SEFS students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends for dinner at Ivar's Salmon House after the lecture.

Dr. Jonathan Foley with SEFS students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends at Ivar’s Salmon House.

The evening concluded with dinner at Ivar’s Salmon House, where a combination of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends continued the conversation with Dr. Foley. As one of the students who attended the dinner, I had the chance to learn about various environmental career paths, such as academia and the non-profit sector. In addition to the extra time with Dr. Foley, I appreciated being able to chat with SEFS faculty outside of the classroom.

Watch the full UWTV recording of Dr. Foley’s 2018 Sustaining Our World Lecture here.

2017 Sustaining Our World Lecture: Anthony Sinclair

Coming up on Tuesday, April 4, from 6 to 7 p.m. in Anderson Hall – Room 223, we are very pleased to welcome Professor Emeritus Anthony R.E. Sinclair from the University of British Columbia to give the annual Sustaining Our World Lecture, “The future of conservation: Lessons from the past and the need for rewilding of ecosystems.”

The talk is free and open to the public, but please register in advance to make sure we have enough seating. (Anderson Hall is one of the older buildings on campus and has no elevators to the second floor or ramp access at any entrance; our sincere apologies for any difficulty in accessing the room.)

Register today!

About the Talk
Three themes emerge from long-term research around the globe. First, the diversity of species is important in maintaining stability in the system. So if we lose species, as in agriculture, we create instability. Second, due to continuously changing environments, ecosystems are always changing. That means that static boundaries around Protected Areas will not be sufficient for long-term conservation. Third, disturbances in ecosystems (fire, floods, agriculture) can cause a rapid change in state from one species community to another. Consequently, Protected Areas are necessary but not sufficient for the conservation of biota. Restoration of human-disturbed landscapes must now become a priority. I present the rationale and a method for predicting the success of rewilding to a pre-determined state using a rewilding index. This approach tells us when rewilding has been achieved and whether the envisioned community of species and their interactions can be restored. The method can be used to guide restoration of both the type and number of species, and the rate of change of ecosystem processes.

About the Speaker
Anthony is currently professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Previously, he served as director of the Centre for Biodiversity Research, University of British Columbia, and was a professor at the Department of Zoology for 34 years. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada. Anthony was a Killam Senior Fellow in 2004-2006 and was awarded the Aldo Leopold medal from The Wildlife Society in 2013.

He has conducted ecological research on the role of biodiversity in the functioning of many ecosystems around the world, including Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. He has worked with many different types of organisms to put together the food webs and their dynamics that cover several decades. This work included the regulation of mammal populations, food supply, nutrition, predation and disease. Anthony has examined the causes of migration and its consequences on ecosystem processes, and he has documented multiple states in the Serengeti savannah and grassland communities for almost 50 years. He has expanded these interests to include bird, insect and reptile faunas as part of the long-term dynamics of ecosystems; these studies have been synthesized in four books. He has worked in Canada on boreal forest ecosystems, in particular on cycles of snowshoe hares for 20 years. He has also worked on endangered marsupial mammal populations and predation by exotic carnivores in Australia and similar systems in New Zealand.

2016 Sustaining Our World Lecture: Lynda V. Mapes

For our annual Sustaining Our World Lecture coming up on Thursday, April 21, the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences is extremely pleased to welcome Lynda V. Mapes, author and environmental reporter for the Seattle Times: “Witness Tree: My year with a single, 100-year old oak.”

2016_03_MapesThe lecture is open to the public and will be held on Thursday, April 21, from 6 to 7 p.m. in Johnson Hall 102. Event registration is free, but we encourage you to RSVP as soon as possible to make sure we have enough seating for everyone!

About the Lecture
What can one tree tell us about our changing world? Lynda will show slides from her year exploring the human and natural history of a single, 100-year old red oak tree at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Mass., and read from her book Witness Tree, forthcoming from Bloomsbury Publishing.

About the Speaker
Lynda Mapes is a staff writer at the Seattle Times, where she specializes in covering native cultures, natural history and environmental topics. Over the course of her career, she has won numerous national and regional awards, most recently a 2012 award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest professional science association. She has written three previous books, most recently Elwha, a River Reborn (The Mountaineers Books, 2012), about the largest dam removal project ever in history and the effort to restore a wilderness watershed in Washington’s Olympic National Park, and its once legendary salmon runs. Now in its second printing, the book also was the inspiration for a major exhibition at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle from September 2013 to March 2014, and is now touring across the country for three years.

2016_03_Mapes2In 2013-14, Lynda was awarded a prestigious nine-month Knight fellowship in Science Journalism at MIT. While there, she focused her study on how seasons and species are affected by climate change. Her research trips to the Harvard Forest for this work earned her the honor of an appointment as a fellow and science writer in residence at the Harvard Forest.

As her work with scientists at the forest unfolded, she discovered the idea for her new book project, Witness Tree, an intimate look at what one tree in the forest tells us about climate change, now under contract with Bloomsbury Publishing. In March 2014, Lynda was awarded another prestigious fellowship, this time from Harvard University. Her 12-month Bullard Fellowship in Forest Research began in September 2014, enabling her to take up residence at Harvard to continue her work and write Witness Tree.

A birder, gardener, hiker and close observer of the natural world, Lynda lives in Seattle with her husband, Doug MacDonald.


We hope you can join us. Register today!

2015 Sustaining Our World Lecture: Molly Steinwald!

For our annual Sustaining Our World Lecture coming up on April 2, we are extremely pleased to welcome Molly Steinwald, the new executive director of the Environmental Learning Center in Vero Beach, Fla.: “Human[-]Nature: Care for Our World is Care for Ourselves.”

Molly SteinwaldMolly Steinwald is a science and environmental educator, writer, photographer and researcher, and before taking on her current role with the Environmental Learning Center she served as director of science education and research at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, Pa. Her research interests range from animal behavior and wildlife genetics to plant community composition and environmental psychology, and much of her recent work involves environmental education and empowerment for non-traditional audiences. Steinwald has more than 15 years of teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate level to science and non-science majors and K-12 teachers, in formal and informal learning settings—and in topics ranging from physiology and ecology to molecular biology and plant-people interactions.

The lecture is open to the public and will be held on Thursday, April 2, from 6 to 7 p.m. in Kane Hall 210. Event registration is free, but please RSVP as soon as possible to make sure we have enough seating for everyone!

About the Talk
A growing body of work is showing that people are spending an overwhelming amount of time indoors, in front of screens, interacting less with other living creatures and less with each other. At the same time, the incidence of depression, child and adult obesity, ADHD and more is growing at an alarming rate. And still, many suffer the effects of socioeconomic hardship.

Environmental scientists and educators are beginning to recognize that traditional methods of outreach and education promoting conservation behaviors are not enough. Stepping back and recognizing the many facets of humanity that make up “the public”—focusing on their interests, needs and barriers to environmental behavior change—and partnering with individuals and organizations across disciplines is requisite. Similarly, research is increasingly pointing to contact with nature as therapy, and engagement in sustainability-focused programs can provide professional skills. So by re-envisioning environmental education and outreach programs so that human well-being and empowerment are considered as equally important to improving the state of the environment, we can work to overcome the human-nature divide—such that caring for the environment means also caring for self and loved ones.

We hope you can join us. Register today!

Sustaining Our World Lecture: Michael Green!

For the annual Sustaining Our World Lecture coming up on April 10, the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences is extremely pleased to welcome Michael Green of Michael Green Architecture for his talk, “PLANT CUT BUILD REPEAT: Natural solutions to complex problems.”

Michael GreenLast year, we featured architect Thomas Knittel and his exploration of biomimicry, and how design can take lessons from nature to become more efficient and sustainable. This year, we’re expanding that discussion with Green, who will talk about building tall with wood—including structures up to 30 stories high—and the importance of using local, renewable resources as an integral component of sustainable design.

The talk is open to the public and will be held on Thursday, April 10, from 6 to 7 p.m. in Kane Hall 210. Event registration is free but space is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible to make sure we have enough available seating in Kane Hall 210!

About the Talk
In a world searching for technical solutions to the complex challenges of climate change, development, shelter shortage and social and environmental degradation, sometimes the answers are found in the gorgeous simplicity of the nature that surrounds us.

Michael Green

Future tall wood diagram.

Michael Green will talk about a future of building with natural materials in ways that suit the places we increasingly choose to live. Innovative wood design is challenging the conservative building industry to move away from the traditions of the Industrial Revolution into a new era of buildings of the Climate Revolution.

About the Speaker
Green lives in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and founded Michael Green Architecture in 2012. He is a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and has been recognized for his award-winning buildings, public art, interiors, landscapes and urban environments. He has developed a wide range of projects from international airports and skyscrapers to Vancouver’s Ronald McDonald House, North Vancouver City Hall and modest but unique retail spaces and homes. His work extends around the globe, including current projects for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture designing a sustainable community in the mountains of Central Asia.

Green is dedicated to bringing attention to several of the overwhelming challenges in architecture today. The first is climate change and how the built environment is an enormous contributor to the factors damaging the very environment designers and architects are seeking to improve. The second is the profound reality that during the next 20 years, 3 billion people, or 40 percent of the world, will need a new affordable home. Green believes in championing a shift to new ways of building that will complement the intersection of our greatest building challenges.


2013 Sustaining Our World Lecture: Thomas Knittel

Sustaining Our World LectureThe College of the Environment and the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences are excited to present the annual Sustaining Our World Lecture on April 4, 2013, from 6-7 p.m. This year’s lecture, Built Ecologies: Regionalism and Resource Integration in the Built World, features Thomas Knittel, vice president and project designer with HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm.

First licensed as an architect in 1986, Mr. Knittel joined HOK in 2007 and has become a leading voice and innovator in sustainable design at the firm’s Seattle studio. His work in biomimicry—taking inspiration from natural systems in order to solve human problems—focuses on integrating models from nature into the design of buildings, communities and cities.

For his talk, Mr. Knittel will explore approaches to the built environment that model, mimic and incorporate natural systems. Drawing on research and project examples from Brazil and Haiti to China, he will discuss how new design strategies and solutions, in order to be more resilient, must be integrated with sustainably produced regional resources—and how design informed by nature provides insights, from the nano to the macro, toward building a sustainable future locally and globally.

“We are increasingly aware of our need to reduce carbon emissions, and using sustainably produced regional resources can help achieve this goal,” says Mr. Knittel. “In the natural world, materials are generally used locally in a closed-loop system. For example, paper wasps make nests combining protein-based oral fluids and wood fibers. Form triumphs over material; the cellular configuration is strong, lasting and water shedding. Such a high degree of integration, translated at the human level, requires robust collaborations across multiple fields: scientists, designers, engineers and resource managers, to name a few—but it’s a replicable model.”

The lecture will be held in Kane Hall, Room 210, on the UW Seattle campus. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited so advanced registration is requested. Find out more information about directions, parking and access, and register today!