Speakers

Kayla Mathes

Kayla is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan pursuing a double degree in cello performance with Professor Richard Aaron from the school of Music and environmental science with a focus in forest ecology from the Program in the Environment. She was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico and came to Michigan specifically for the music program in pursuit of becoming a professional musician. Half way through her college career, she discovered a new passion for ecology and environmental sciences which has since taken her down a very different path. She now hopes to pursue a career as a forest ecology researcher and teacher.

With both a passion for music and science, Kayla is excited to explore ways to integrate art and music as creative forms of communicating science. Throughout human history, arts and creative expression have been an essential tool for articulating experiences and perceptions of the natural world and Kayla hopes to use this tool to bridge the gap between scientific research and its application to the rest community. She feels this is especially important for research involving climate change, resource management and conservation.

In her free time, Kayla loves long distance running, dancing, hiking, backpacking and anything involving the outdoors.

Sandra Steingraber

Biologist, author, and cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. writes about climate change, ecology, and the links between human health and the environment. Steingraber’s highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with data from U.S. cancer registries and was adapted for the screen in 2010. As both book and documentary film, Living Downstream has won praise from international media. Continuing the investigation begun in Living Downstream, Steingraber’s books, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood and Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis, explore the intimate ecology of pregnancy and reveal the ways which environmental hazards now threaten each stage of infant and child development. Throughout, she calls parents and cancer patients alike to political action. “We are all members of a great human orchestra,” says Steingraber, “and it is now time to play the Save the World Symphony. You do not have to play a solo, but you do have to know what instrument you hold and find your place in the score.”

Called “a poet with a knife” by Sojourner magazine, Steingraber has received many honors for her work as a science writer, including, in 2011, a Heinz Award. By donating the cash prize to the anti-fracking movement, she became, in 2012, the co-founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking, a statewide coalition of more than 280 grassroots organizations. Steingraber has been named a Woman of the Year by Ms. Magazine, a Person of the Year by Treehugger, and one of 25 “Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World” by the Utne Reader. She is the recipient of the biennial Rachel Carson Leadership Award and the Jenifer Altman Foundation’s Altman Award for “the inspiring and poetic use of science to elucidate the causes of cancer.” Steingraber received a Hero Award from the Breast Cancer Fund and the Environmental Health Champion Award from Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles.

Recognized for her ability to serve as a two-way translator between scientists and activists, Steingraber has keynoted conferences on human health and the environment throughout the United States and Canada and has been invited to lecture at many medical schools, hospitals, and universities–including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, and the Woods Hole Research Center. She has testified in the European Parliament, at the European Commission, before the President’s Cancer Panel, and has participated in briefings to Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, and before United Nations delegates in Geneva, Switzerland. Interviews with Steingraber have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Rolling Stone, Outside Magazine, on National Public Radio, CBS News, “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” and “Bill Moyers & Company.” A contributing essayist and editor for Orion magazine, Sandra Steingraber is currently a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York.

Visit Sandra Steingraber’s website here.

Sara Adlerstein

Sara Adlerstein, Ph.D., Lecturer, has been a research faculty at the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan for 14 years. Her research program is centered on Great Lakes applied aquatic ecology, with emphasis on population assessments and ecosystem dynamics. Previously she worked at University of Hamburg, the Chilean Fishery Ministry and the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and she is expert on ecosystem effect of fisheries for a number of Marine Stewardship Council certifications for sustainable fisheries. She has authored over 50 peer review publications in scientific journals. Dr. Adlerstein is also a visual artist and she is involved with numerous projects bridging the arts and environmental sciences with particular focus on the role of art in conservation. She teaches classes that explore the multilayer relationships between culture and the environment. One of her contributions to art and conservation is the creation of the Art & Environment Gallery in SNRE where she is director and curator. Dr. Adlerstein is an artist member of the WSG gallery in Ann Arbor and her work is part of public and private collections in countries around the world. Her artwork is featured in Poemas de las Madres (Eastern Washington University Press, 1996).

Michael E. Mann

Dr. Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC).

Mann is the author of several books including his most recent work, The Madhouse Effect, which features cartoons by Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Tom Toles. Through satire, “The Madhouse Effect” portrays the intellectual pretzels into which denialists must twist logic to explain away the clear evidence that man-made activity has changed our climate.

Visit Michael Mann’s website here.

Ben Iuliano

Ben Iuliano is a senior at the University of Michigan studying Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity, with a minor in Food and the Environment. In his time at Michigan, Ben has been a student activist affiliated with a variety of groups including Science for the People, the Michigan Student Power Network, and the UM fossil fuel divestment campaign (Divest and Invest). During the 2015-2016 school year, he served as a student leader for Divest and Invest, overseeing campaign successes including the approval of a Faculty Senate Assembly Resolution and campaign endorsement by the Michigan Daily. Ben has published research on pollinator ecology in urban agroecosystems, and serves as the Sustainable Food, Healthy Communities Program assistant at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.

Stephen Mulkey

From July 2011 through December 2015, Stephen Mulkey served as president of Unity College in Maine, a four-year liberal arts institution dedicated to sustainability science. He led Unity College to be the first institution of higher learning in the U.S. to divest its endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies and directed the creation of the College’s premier graduate program in sustainability science.

Prior to becoming president at Unity College, Dr. Mulkey served as director of the Environmental Science Program at the University of Idaho. Leading an interdisciplinary team of faculty, he successfully acquired National Science Foundation funding for the creation of a new Professional Science Master’s degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, which included degree tracks in sustainability science and climate change. With major funding from NASA, he created a regional project to bring climate change science to secondary schools in the Intermountain West.

From 1996 to 2008, Dr. Mulkey served as tenured faculty in the University of Florida’s Department of Botany and as a research associate with UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation. During this period, he served as Director of Research and Outreach/Extension for the School of Natural Resources and Environment and as science advisor to the State of Florida Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida.

Before his service at UF, Dr. Mulkey spent eleven years at the University of Missouri St. Louis, where he co-founded and directed the International Center for Tropical Ecology, a nationally recognized graduate training and conservation program. He has held extended appointments as a research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and as an associate at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Dr. Mulkey holds a bachelor’s degree in Forestry Fisheries and Wildlife and a master’s degree in Biology from the University of Missouri. He earned his PhD with dissertation in tropical forest ecology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986.

As a scholar of the interdisciplinary literature in environmental science, Dr. Mulkey is an active public interpreter of climate change and sustainability. His recent research focuses on the role of landscape carbon stocks in climate mitigation and on the academic structure of interdisciplinary programs in the environmental and sustainability sciences.

Visit Stephen Mulkey’s blog The Environmental Century here.

Theresa Wei Ying Ong

Theresa Wei Ying Ong, PhD. is a recent University of Michigan Ecology and Evolutionary Biology alum, where she worked with John Vandermeer. Currently, she is a NSF postdoctoral research fellow working with Simon Levin (Princeton University), Stacy Philpott (UC Santa Cruz) and Brenda Lin (CSIRO-Australia). She is broadly interested in theoretical agroecology, especially in the setting of urban gardens. Her work focuses on how biocomplexity influences the resilience of these agricultural systems to both ecological and political perturbations. Her scientific work has been published in Nature Communications, and in news outlets including Science Daily. Theresa has helped to organize many political and scientific events at U of M including the Climate Teach-In +50: End the War Against the Planet, the Early Career Scientists Symposium on Humans as a Force of Ecological and Evolutionary Change and the symposium in honor of John Vandermeer: Science with Passion and a Moral Compass.  She is a graduate of the Frontiers Masters Program, an initiative to diversify the field of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and a proud member of Science for the People.

Jennifer Blesh

Jennifer Blesh is an ecologist and Assistant Professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability, and the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative, at the University of Michigan (UM). Jennifer uses interdisciplinary research approaches to investigate the multiple drivers and outcomes of distinct agroecosystems and food systems. Her ecological research focuses on soil fertility management, emphasizing carbon and nutrient cycling processes including legume nitrogen fixation. Her social science research explores innovation processes on farms, such as factors that foster transitions toward agroecological management.

Jennifer teaches several courses at UM including Foundations of Sustainable Food Systems and Agroecosystem Management: Nutrient Cycles and Soil Fertility, and she co-taught a community-academic partnership course titled Food Literacy at All in winter 2017. Before joining UM in 2014, Jennifer received her PhD in Soil and Crop Sciences from Cornell University, and then received an international postdoctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation to conduct research at the Federal University of Mato Grosso, in Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Juan R. I. Cole

Juan R. I. Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three and a half decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent book is The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East (Simon & Schuster, July 2014). He also authored Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and many other books. He has translated works of Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran. He has appeared on PBS’s Lehrer News Hour, ABC World News Tonight, Nightline, the Today Show, Charlie Rose, Anderson Cooper 360, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes’ All In, the Colbert Report, Democracy Now! and many others. He has given many radio and press interviews. He has written widely about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. He has written about the upheavals in the Arab World since 2011, including about Sunni extremist groups and Shiite politics. He has regular columns at The Nation and Truthdig. Cole commands Arabic, Persian and Urdu and reads Turkish, knows both Middle Eastern and South Asian Islam. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for more than a decade, and continues to travel widely there. A bibliography of his writings may be found here.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist who in 2014 was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’ His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages; he’s gone on to write a dozen more books. He is a founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized twenty thousand rallies around the world in every country save North Korea, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement.

The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize, and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.”

A former staff writer for the New Yorker, he writes frequently for a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of BooksNational Geographic, and Rolling Stone. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, where he spends as much time as possible outdoors . In 2014, biologists honored him by naming a new species of woodland gnat— Megophthalmidia mckibbeni–in his honor.

For more information, please visit: www.billmckibben.com

George W. Kling

George W. Kling is the Robert G. Wetzel Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan.  He graduated from the University of Colorado (1982) with a Bachelor’s degree in biology, and from Duke University (1988) with a Ph.D. in zoology.  His postdoctoral studies were done at the Ecosystems Center in Woods Hole, MA, and he joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1991.  Kling primarily studies aquatic ecology and biogeochemistry, and his research has focused on carbon and nutrient cycling, on using stable isotopes to understand food-web interactions, on the integration of lakes and streams in a landscape context, and on the role of microbial diversity in ecosystem function.  He has worked internationally on arctic lakes and streams and on tropical lakes in Africa.  Kling’s scientific outreach to the public through interviews about his research on climate change and on the killer lakes of Cameroon includes articles in magazines and newspapers, T.V. and radio broadcasts, and television films.  He has met regularly with U.S. Congress members to discuss issues of climate change and scientific integrity, and was lead author of the Union of Concerned Scientists–Ecological Society of America publication ‘Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region’ (2003).  Kling is an associate editor for Limnology and Oceanography, an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and received a National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellowship, a National Academy of Sciences Young Investigator Award, the United Nations Sasakawa Award (Certificate for Disaster Reduction in tropical lakes), the Associate for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography John Martin Award for a high-impact paper in the field, and the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Ruth Patrick Award for environmental problem solving.

Ivette Perfecto

Ivette Perfecto is the George W. Pack Professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment of the University of Michigan. She has 30 years of experience working on issues of agriculture and the environment and 25 years teaching courses on environmental issues at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on agroecology, biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. She has more than 130 publications in peer-review journals, 16 book chapters and is author of three books, Breakfast of Biodiversity (2005, with John Vandermeer), and Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty (2009, with Angus Wright and John Vandermeer) and Coffee Agroecology (2015, with John Vandermeer). Professor Perfecto was one of the lead coordinating authors of the United Nation’s International Assessment on Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). She has received several awards including the ESA Diversity Award, SNRE Outstanding Teaching Award and University of Michigan Faculty Recognition Award. She is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Ecological Society of America (ESA).