Campus Life



In 2014, the CNAS Science Lecture series highlighted EDGE with the following presentations on the topic of life in a changing environment.


  • 2014 EDGE Science Lectures
    January 22: HAIR: The History of Animals Using Isotope Records

    Thure Cerling, University of Utah

    Thure Cerling, a pioneer in using isotope records of hair, bones, and teeth and a leading expert in the evolution of modern landscapes, including modern mammals and their associated grassland ecologies. A distinguished professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, Cerling studies Earth surface geochemistry processes and the geological record of ecological change. His lecture will discuss his research on how hair shows the isotope physiology and diets of modern mammals as well as the history of diets of different mammalian lineages extending over millions of years. He will also discuss how the composition of human hair reflects the region where a person lives.

    Lecture Slides Lecture Video

    March 5: The Deep History of Life

    Andrew Knoll, Harvard University

    Fossils of shells, bones, tracks and trails record a history of animal evolution more than 600 million years in duration.  Earth, however, is some four and a half billion years old, prompting the question of what kinds of life characterized our planet’s youth and middle age. Harvard University’s Andrew Knoll, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences best known for his contributions to Precambrian paleontology and biogeochemistry, addressed this question in his EDGE lecture.

    Lecture Slides Lecture Video

    April 2: What's for Dinner? Molecular Signatures of Plants, Animals, and Water in Early Human Habitats

    Kate Freeman, Pennsylvania State University

    Kate Freeman, a geoscientist renowned for her research in organic geochemistry, isotopic biogeochemistry, paleoclimate, and astrobiology gave an EDGE lecture that highlighted the detective work needed to understand biomarker and isotope signals of plants and water in the past, and what they tell us about environmental resources such as water, food, and shelter available to our forebears.

    Lecture Video

    April 9: How Fracking Impacts Our Water: The Pennsylvania Experience

    Sue Brantley, Pennsylvania State University

    Fracking, the hydraulic fracturing technology by which shale rocks are fractured by a pressurized liquid to release oil and natural gas, is controversial with proponents citing an increase in domestic oil production and lower gas prices, and opponents voicing environmental concerns and worries over small tremors that have sometimes followed fracking. Susan Brantley, a distinguished professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, discussed fracking’s impact on water in this lecture.

    Lecture Slides Lecture Video

    April 22: Curiosity's Mission of Exploration at Gale Crater, Mars

    John Grotzinger, Cal Tech

    John Grotzinger, Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology, has been involved in several planetary missions. He is currently the lead scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory mission that launched the Mars Curiosity Rover in 2011. He is also a participating scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers and for the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He presented a talk on the goals of the Mars exploration, the role of water throughout Mar’s geologic history, and the sedimentologic studies of Mars.

    April 23: Global Warming 36 Million Years Ago: What It Means for Us

    Scott Wing, Smithsonian Institution

    Scott Wing, curator of fossil plants in the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History (part of the Smithsonian Institution) uses fossil plants to reconstruct past climates and local environments. His lecture analyzes what past global warming means for our changing climate.

    Lecture Slides Lecture Video

    April 29 & 30: Islands as Models for Understanding Human-Environment Interactions

    Peter Vitousek, Stanford University

    Oceanic islands like the Hawaiian Archipelago have long been recognized in biology as model systems for understanding evolution and speciation, and more recently as models for understanding ecosystem structure and functioning.  Other communities have studied the adaptive radiation of human societies on islands (without using that terminology).  Islands also offer remarkable opportunities to evaluate the interaction of ecosystems and human societies - as societies develop, intensify agriculture, and become more socially and culturally complex.  Vitousek’s lecture examines island societies that faced the necessity of a transition to sustainability earlier and more starkly than continental societies and how features of both land and culture influenced their success in making this transition.

    May 13 & 14: Ecosystems

    Whendee Silver, UC Berkeley

    Grasslands cover approximately 30% of the terrestrial land surface and 50% of the land area in California. This large land area and the propensity of grassland vegetation to store carbon (C) in soils suggest thateven low rates of C sequestration could result in a significant sink of atmospheric CO2. In this EDGE Lecture,Whendee Silver, a UC Berkeley professor who researches ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry, presented her findingsthat using composted organic material on rangeland soils as a mechanism to increase C storage and decrease greenhouse gas emissions sequestered new C that would more than offset emissions from cattle or half of the commercial and residential energy sector for the state. The compost-amended fields had significantly higher net primary productivity, water-holding capacity, and fertility than the control plots.

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