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Summer lectures aim to demystify Great Lakes science

Ariel view of UM Biological Station in Pellston.
University of Michigan
Ariel view of UM Biological Station in Pellston.

A series of lectures ranging from birding, to the science of the northern lights, to indigenous art, aims to demystify Great Lakes science this summer

The free events come from the University of Michigan Biological Station in Pellston and will feature scientists, artists, professors and more.

Aimée Classen is director of the Biological Station and a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She said each event is aimed at bringing participants closer to the environment.

“Northern Michigan clearly has an enormous water resource. And so understanding how those resources might change over time ... is important for the community to think about,” Classen said. “These talks allow people to explore the wonder of biology and the natural areas that they live in.”

Lectures will take place outdoors under a large tent along the shore and are featured mostly on Wednesday evenings.

The biological station is an 11,000-acre research and teaching campus located at 9133 Biological Road in Pellston, just south of the Mackinac Bridge on Douglas Lake.

The first lecture will be all about how infectious diseases affect animal populations. Discussions will be lead by Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale University and an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellow.

The lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14.

“I hope that people walk away and look at their northern Michigan homes in new ways, and have those moments of wonder and awe as they think about what they learned and how it can apply it to the areas that surround them,” Classen said.

See dates for other summer lectures below:

  • Wednesday, June 21: Leslie Sobel, a mixed media environmental artist from Ann Arbor, is an artist in residence at the U-M Biological Station in June. She connects climate, water and data through art. Her lecture is titled “Artist in the Wilderness: Field Work and Art Making.”
  • Thursday, June 22: Ross Ellet, a meteorologist at the ABC affiliate in Toledo, Ohio, and a space weather expert, will discuss geomagnetic storms, aurora borealis and how to best photograph the Northern Lights, even if you only have an iPhone. He produces a weekly segment called “Spacing Out” that focuses on night sky highlights and publishes a weekly Great Lakes aurora forecast each Thursday. An aurora chaser, Ross has traveled to the arctic of Alaska and a variety of locations in northern Michigan, southern Canada and northern Manitoba to photograph the Northern Lights.
  • Wednesday, June 28: Dr. Robin Clark, an assistant professor at Lake Superior State University, plans to talk about northern white cedar trees, or “Giizhik,” their projected decline, and indigenous knowledge and practices that can inform forest management and growth. Her talk is titled “Weaving Anishinaabe and Western Sciences for Long-term Giizhik Relations: Process and Patterns.”
  • Wednesday, July 5: Dr. Joan Strassmann, an evolutionary biologist, U-M Biological Station alumna, the Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, member of the National Academy of Sciences and author of “Slow Birding: The Art and Science of Enjoying Birds in Your Own Backyard,” will give the Hann Endowed Lecture in Ornithology. She will explain the fascinating world of common, everyday birds, such as blue jays, cardinals, robins and sparrows.
  • Wednesday, July 26: Dr. Melissa Duhaime is an assistant professor in the U-M Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and instructor of “Microbes in the Wild” at the U-M Biological Station. She will explore the fascinating world of viruses and microplastics.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 9: Dr. Jennifer Pett-Ridge, a senior staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, will give the Bennett Lecture in Mycology and Plant Biology. Pett-Ridge, a leading soil scientist, examines natural land solutions and emerging carbon-friendly technologies designed to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Her talk will highlight her work building interdisciplinary teams to shed light on how soil organisms impact the global carbon cycle.
Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.