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Protecting our oceans

Noted biologist discusses sustaining marine biodiversity during Science College public lecture
October 26, 2011
By Tom Peacock

Biology professor Jeffrey Hutchings, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Marine Conservation and Biodiversity at Dalhousie University, will add his name to an illustrious list of internationally renowned scientists when he takes to the stage at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall on Thursday, November 3 for Concordia’s Science College Public Lecture Series.

During his talk, entitled: “Canada: Leader or Laggard in Sustaining Marine Biodiversity,” Hutchings will argue that Canada has not done enough to prove itself a leader in the protection, conservation and sustainable exploitation of marine biodiversity.

“Biological depredation of waters bordered by the world’s longest coastline ultimately reflects ineffectual leadership and disingenuous commitment to environmental sustainability,” he states. “Governmental and societal lip service need to be replaced by meaningful responses to over-exploitation and climate change.”

Calvin Kalman, principal of the Science College, says it’s important for the college to feature speakers who are tackling current issues, such as sustainability. “This way our students get to meet people who are really involved in shaping our world,” he says. “Sustainability is a major issue people are talking about now.”

The public lecture series, which is free to anyone who wants to attend, attracts many high school and CÉGEP teachers, and some make attendance mandatory for their classes. “One of the roles of a university is to educate a wider community beyond just the student body,” says Kalman. “Teachers attend, and they bring these issues back to their students, so in a sense we’re shaping a much wider community,”

People who attend the lecture are also invited to attend a reception afterward, where they will be offered further opportunity to discuss the chosen topic with the speaker. “It gives everybody a really good chance to interact and get involved,” he adds.

Many big-name scientists have given participated in the public lectures as guests of the Science College over the years, including paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, and acclaimed Harvard psychology professor and cognitive scientist Stephen Pinker, whose lecture in 2003 attracted such a large crowd that many were forced to watch it on screens in the Vanier Library lobby.

In the fall of 2010, renowned Montreal neuroscientist Brenda Milner delivered her lecture Brain and Memory: Lessons from neurosurgical patients. Milner, a pioneer in the field of neuropsychology, turned 93 this year. “She talked for an hour, then went over to the reception and talked to everybody for another hour, and then I took her home and she walked up the stairs to her place,” recalls Kalman.
“She’s still doing research. She’s really a living legend.”

As Lillian Jackson, assistant to the principal of the Science College explains, the college is able to attract very highly regarded scientists for its public lecture series because of the prestige of those who came before them, and in spite of the fact they only get a modest honorarium for their appearance. “In the past we’ve had Nobel Prize winners, and all kinds of internationally famous scientists, and because they want their name to be placed on the list with all these famous people, they accept our offer.”

Jackson says the lecture series is also a great recruitment tool. “Many of the young students who attend the lectures end up attending Concordia,” she says. “The series plays a dynamic role in letting the public know about the Science College and about Concordia.”

What: Science College Public Lecture Series
Jeffrey Hutchings, PhD: Canada: Leader or Laggard in Sustaining Marine Biodiversity
When: Thursday, November 3, 8 p.m.
Where: Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, Loyola Campus (7141 Sherbrooke Street W.)

Related Link:
•  Science College

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