Explore the extremes through the eyes of scientific explorers at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. This lecture series brings Dr. Kenneth Broad (environmental anthropologist), Dr. Kevin Lafferty (ecologist) and Dr. Lynn Rothschild (evolutionary biologist/astrobiologist) who will share their compelling and inspiring tales about the frontiers of science – from the Blue Holes of the Bahamas to parasitic ecosystems to the edge of the universe. All presentations will be held in Fleischman Auditorium and will conclude with a lively conversation between speaker and audience, as well as an opportunity to meet the scientist. The lectures are weekly on Thursdays (March 10, 17 and 24) and each lecture begins at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available online at www.sbnature.org/tickets or at the door (Museum Members $8; Non-members $10). Parking is free. For more information call 805-682-4711 ext. 170.
Blue Holes of the Bahamas: Caves, Climate, and Cognition
by Dr. Kenneth Broad
Thursday, March 10
Largely unexplored, and considered among the most hazardous places to dive, the flooded caves, or “blue holes” of the Bahamas, are a potential treasure trove of scientific knowledge. Dr. Broad will speak on the findings of his recent cave diving expeditions to the Blue Holes of the Bahamas which were featured on the cover of the August 2010 issue of National Geographic. Discoveries from the Blue Holes are significant to the fields of microbiology, paleontology and climate science. He will also discuss cave exploration in terms of risk perception.
To quote National Geographic, “Inland blue holes are the scientific equivalent of Tut’s tomb. From a diver’s perspective, they’re on par with Everest or K2, requiring highly specialized training, equipment, and experience. Even more than high-altitude mountaineers, cave divers work under tremendous time pressure. When something goes wrong, if they don’t solve the problem and make it back to the cave entrance before their gas runs out, they’re doomed.”
Dr. Broad is an environmental anthropologist who studies the relationship between humans and their environment. Kenny has led or participated in extreme expeditions around the globe – from dangerous urban slums to the deepest caves on the planet – to gather information and samples that shed light on little known environmental and cultural subjects. He is an associate professor at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and is Director of the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science. He also Co-directs the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University. Broad received the 2006 Emerging Explorer Award and was elected a Fellow National of the Explorers Club in 2009. He received his PhD in anthropology from Columbia University in 1999.
Parasites Rule! Castration, Mind Control, and Human Culture
by Dr. Kevin Lafferty
Thursday, March 17
Parasitism is the most popular lifestyle on earth and parasites have evolved insidious and fascinating ways to complete their life cycles. Dr. Lafferty will discuss how parasites quietly affect entire ecosystems and human culture, noting that parasites are normal part of a functioning food web.
Dr. Kevin Lafferty is an ecologist with the US Geological Survey and adjunct faculty at UCSB, specializing in parasites. He’s lived in Santa Barbara for 30 years and travelled the world in search of the parasites he admires. He and his wife, Cristina Sandoval, the director of Coal Oil Point Reserve, are actively engaged in local conservation issues.
Life at the Edge: Life in Extreme Environments on Earth and the Search for Life in the Universe
by Dr. Lynn Rothschild
Thursday, March 24
Lynn Rothschild has gone from the Bolivian Andes to the Rift Valley of Kenya searching for the hardiest of organisms in the most extreme environments for life. By getting to know life forms on Earth that can occupy the most hostile niches, we can begin to understand the survival requirements for life in general. She describes her quest for “life at the edge” and how such discoveries will shape our search for life in the Solar System and beyond.
Dr. Lynn Rothschild is an evolutionary biologist/astrobiologist at NASA Ames, and Professor at Stanford and Brown University, where she teaches Astrobiology and Space Exploration. She has broad training in biology, with degrees from Yale, Indiana University, and a Ph.D. from Brown University in Molecular and Cell Biology. Since arriving at Ames in 1987, her research has focused on how life, particularly microbes, has evolved in the context of the physical environment, both here and potentially elsewhere. Field sites range from Australia to Africa to the Andes, from the ocean to 100,000 feet on a balloon. In the last few years Rothschild has brought her expertise in extremophiles and evolutionary biology to the field of synthetic biology, addressing on how synthetic biology can enhance NASA’s missions. Rothschild is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, the California Academy of Sciences and the Explorers Club.