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Arnold Arboretum
Directors Lecture Series

Director’s Lecture Series 2015

Each year, Director William (Ned) Friedman and the Arnold Arboretum present the Director’s Lecture Series, featuring nationally recognized experts addressing an array of topics related to Earth’s biodiversity and evolutionary history, the environment, conservation biology, and key social issues associated with current science. Visit Past Series to listen to audio (when available) of past lectures. Lectures take place in the Hunnewell Building Lecture Hall. Parking will be available in front of the building and along the Arborway.

Free. Member-only registration through December 15; general registration after December 15. Register

Mutants in our Midst: Darwin, Horticulture, and Evolution

William (Ned) Friedman, PhD, Director, Arnold Arboretum and Arnold Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
Monday, January 12, 7:00–8:30pm

Although often overlooked as such, many of the horticultural varieties that we grow in gardens are premier examples of the ongoing process of evolution: random mutations that lead, on the rarest of occasions, to novel and desirable biological characteristics. Throughout his life, Charles Darwin (as well as other nineteenth century evolutionists) looked to the world of horticulture and plant domestication to gain critical insights into the generation of variation and the process of natural selection that underlie evolutionary change. Come see how horticulture played a central role in laying the foundations for discovering evidence of evolution as well as the process of evolution. Professor Ned Friedman will also argue that modern botanical gardens can and should become a leading force for the promotion of evolutionary thinking by highlighting the very kinds of mutations observed and described by Darwin as well as new examples of monstrosities and mutants that continue to be found in the Arboretum and other living collections around the world.

The Oldest Living Things in the World

Rachel Sussman, Photographer
Monday, March 2, 7:00–8:30pm

Since 2004 Rachel Sussman has been researching, working with biologists, and traveling the world to photograph continuously living organisms 2,000 years old and older. Her work spans disciplines, continents, and millennia: it is part art and part science, has an innate environmentalism, and is underscored by an existential incursion into Deep Time. Her original index of millennia-old organisms has never before been created in the arts or sciences. Enjoy her awe-inspiring photographs and hear what it means to bear witness to organisms that perhaps predate human history and that may survive well into future generations. Her book, The Oldest Living Things in the World, will be available for purchase and signing.

China, Biodiversity, and the Global Environment

Peter Raven, PhD, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden
Monday, March 23, 7:00–8:30pm

China boasts not only the largest percentage of the world’s population (19%) but also one of Earth’s richest and most diverse floras. Yet its economic rise as an industrial nation and its population density, with the associated environmental degradation, put this biodiversity at risk. Add in climate change and it is a recipe for disaster. Professor Peter Raven, a leading botanist, advocate for the conservation of biodiversity, and one of the co-editors of The Flora of China, a joint Chinese-American census of all the plants of China, is uniquely qualified to assess the consequences of over-population, industrial pollution, economic inequalities, and natural resource exploitation in China—consequences not limited to that country but affecting the entire global environment. In this talk, he will consider what it means for humanity to lose thousands of species to extinction, many before they are known or described by scientists. He’ll present his thoughts on reversing environmental degradation in China and around the globe and what is required to move all people toward an ethic of conservation and securing sustainability.

Environmental Lawlessness

Richard Lazarus, Howard and Katherine Aibel Professor of Law, Harvard University
Monday, April 20, 7:00–8:30pm

What happens when laws and regulations don’t keep pace with changes in technology, science, and society? The answer, according to Harvard Law School Professor Richard Lazarus, is lawlessness. Come learn some of the history and circumstances behind the country’s current but outdated environmental laws, how the original scope and intentions of these laws may no longer match the scope of the problems we face today, and the lawmaking challenges we now face as we seek to address the mounting environmental risks posed by deepwater drilling, natural gas fracking, and climate change. Professor Lazarus, who teaches environmental law, natural resources law, Supreme Court advocacy, and torts at Harvard Law School, was the principal author of Deep Water–The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling (GPO 2011), the Report to the President of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission. He will speak of lessons learned from this environmental disaster and how new regulations in line with current technologies are needed to better protect the environment as we tap our natural resources.

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