The Environmental Lecture Series was established at Ashland University after the implementation of the Environmental Science Program in 1991-92. The lecture series was designed to support the program by allowing students, faculty and members of North Central Ohio communities to interact with leaders in environmental science and policy. Over the years, the lecture series has generated significant campus and community involvement and support. Recent lectures have been archived on this webpage for your viewing.

Current support for the lecture series is provided by donations, support from Ashland University and a grant from the National Science Foundation. Previous lecture series have been supported by AU and grants from the Lubrizol Foundation, the GTE Foundation and the Fran and Warren Rupp Foundation.

All lectures will be at 7:30 p.m. Lectures are typically hosted in Ronk Lecture Hall at the College of Education (specific events may use other locations). Ashland University invites participants to attend both in-person and via live webinar whenever possible. Attendance, whether in-person or via live webinar, are free and open to the public.

Previous Environmental Lecture Series

Ohioans and many other people all around the world rely on imports from far-away croplands, plantations, and mines. Coffee, chocolate, bananas, palm oil, the minerals in our electronics, and natural rubber are examples used daily by millions of Ohioans. Yet is it unusual for consumers to have access to information about the sources of such resources and their products. What are the consequences of these large-scale economies to local biodiversity and human quality of life? How do climate change and other stressors affect the sustainability of these products? And can these products, or other examples like them, be grown, harvested or mined in ways that are less damaging to local communities and ecosystem biodiversity?

The Global Health Implications of the Transition to CLEAN Electric Vehicles

Presenter: Perry Gottesfeld, MPH & Executive Director, Occupational Knowledge International, San Francisco, CA

Lecture Date: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022

Lecture Recording

As major auto companies have committed to shifting exclusively to electric vehicle production, and some countries have announced plans to ban conventional cars, it is important to consider the human health implications from the expected increase in mining and smelting needed to supply the growing demand for key metal inputs. Efforts to recycle lithium-ion batteries are unlikely to alleviate metal supply constraints in the short-term, but are necessary to reduce the carbon footprint, mining impacts and avoid further environmental harm. Electric vehicles may provide health benefits from reduced air pollution in urban areas.

Biological and geographical diversification of natural rubber: US supply security, rural development, and public health

Presenter: Dr. Katrina Cornish, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, OH

Lecture Date: Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023

Lecture Recording

The United States is completely dependent upon southeast Asian sources of natural rubber, a critical raw material in 50,000 products, which cannot be replaced by synthetic elastomers. All commercially available natural rubber is tapped by hand as latex by poorly paid workers. Rubber trees are grown as genetically identical clones and are extremely prone to fungal pathogens and other diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragile nature of our rubber supply chain. Dr. Cornish will discuss these issues and how we can develop supply security with the United States and our own manufacture of protective gloves and other products.

Save the Earth: 10 Reasons to Buy Better Chocolate

Presenter: Dr. Romi L. Burks, Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX

Lecture Date: Thursday, March 30, 2023

As students in Dr. Burks’ classes delve deeper into the world of chocolate, particularly the culture and science of artisan (or craft) chocolate, they learn about multiple disciplines beyond science and work to make connections. All cacao grows "at origin" within the equatorial belt (except for Hawaii) and the taste of the chocolate depends on where it grows, how the cacao gets fermented and the drying and packaging processes at origin. Most making and consuming of chocolate, however, occurs in the Global North creating considerable economic disparities. The business of making chocolate has roots in global history and raises questions about social justice and environmental conservation.

This series was specifically intended to complement our College of Arts and Sciences’ biennial Symposium Against Indifference. Researchers with different scientific questions and technical expertise have shared their discoveries and how their work informs our discussion of climate change.

What Can Trees Tell us About Climate Change?

Presenter: Dr. Greg Wiles, Schoolroy Chair of Natural Resources, College of Wooster, Wooster, OH

Lecture Date: February 17, 2022

Lecture Recording

Long-lived trees in North America have been tapped for climate information for more than 100 years. The College of Wooster Tree Ring Lab assembles and analyzes tree-ring records from Alaska and Ohio that put cold-and-warm and wet-and-dry times into a long-term context of centuries to millennia. This paleoclimate perspective can be compared with records of past glacier changes in Alaska and changes in the climate and landscape associated with the history of Ohio. The stories that the trees tell provide a context for ongoing climate change and the results are sometimes surprising.

Perspective on the Current Man-Made Alteration of the Atmospheric Composition: What Ice Cores Tell Us

Presenter: Dr. Emilie Beaudon, Senior Research Associate, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Lecture Date: March 24, 2022

Lecture Recording

Paleoclimatology is an increasingly important discipline within the geological and earth systems. Sciences and is essential in the understanding of modern global environmental change, which will impact most aspects of human activities and will map the direction of science in the 21st century. Ice cores are wonderful archives of past climate and environmental changes, as they contain physical and chemical records of variable length (from decades to some hundred thousand years) and time resolution (from seasonal to decadal), making them cornerstones of global change research for 50 years.

Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Supply Chain

Presenter: Dr. Amy Townsend-Small, Associate Professor of Environmental Science, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Lecture Date: April 7, 2022

Lecture Recording

This event was co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences biennial Symposium Against Indifference.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is up to 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.  Over the past decade, concentrations have been rising in the atmosphere at increasing rates. However, methane has a complex mixture of natural and anthropogenic sources and scientists disagree on why concentrations have begun to rise in recent years. In this seminar, Dr. Townsend-Small will discuss her group's research on methane emissions from oil and natural gas sources, including measurements from right here in Ohio. Assessing the largest methane sources is key to controlling the emissions of this dangerous climate forcer.

This year’s series focused on liberty and responsibility, environmental laws and Ohio wildlife, natural resources and quality of life. The goal of the series was to engage with this theme through examples of application of environmental laws and policies in the state of Ohio.

On January 1, 1970, President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act into law. One of its stated goals was “to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man.” Later that year, Nixon ordered the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which had the responsibility of maintaining and enforcing national standards under a variety of environmental laws. Nixon went on to sign other laws focused on environmental health, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act. This began a nearly six-decade period in which U.S. citizens were expected to take more responsibility for their actions in the natural environment, including wildlife, ecosystems and human health. Throughout this time period, some individuals and communities objected to new restrictions on liberty with respect to use of natural areas. This tension remains to this day and can be seen throughout discussion of national laws and local policies (such as urban planning initiatives, environmental justice advocacy, state priorities, regulations and incentives related to land-use and energy development).

The Effects of Phosphorus Management in the Lake Erie Watershed from 1969 to Today

Nov. 7 / -- 

Presenter: Dr. Laura Johnson, Director, National Center for Water Quality Research, Heidelberg University, Tiffin, OH

Lecture Date: November 7, 2019

Lecture Recording

Historically, cultural eutrophication of Lake Erie was a major concern and through efforts by the United States and Canada starting with the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), Lake Erie largely recovered by the mid-1990s. However, over the past decade Lake Erie has been experiencing a recurrence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the western basin and an increase in hypoxia in the central basin.  The National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University has been monitoring major tributaries to Lake Erie for up to 45 years. In the agricultural watersheds (e.g., Maumee and Sandusky Rivers), long-term trends in loads and concentrations indicate that total phosphorus (TP), which consists of particulate and dissolved P, has decreased since the mid-1970s, whereas dissolved reactive P (DRP) has been increased drastically in the mid-1990s. Trends in the Cuyahoga River, which is dominated by point-source inputs of P, are quite different—TP and DRP decreased in the mid-1970s and have since remained consistently low. Thus, increased DRP and HABs appear to be associated with recent patterns in agriculture such as broadcasting surface fertilizers, build-up of P at the soil surface, unnecessary fertilizer application, increased soil compaction from large equipment and increased tile drainage intensity.  Encouraging best management practices (BMPs) on farmland focused on DRP loss, such as the 4Rs and nutrient management, rather than particulate P and erosion should help decrease the severity of HABs in the future.

Using Low-Cost Sensors to Improve the Spatial Resolution of Air Quality Measurements

Presenter: Dr. Andrew May, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental & Geodetic Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Lecture Date: January 23, 2020

Lecture Recording

This talk was co-sponsored by the Ashland University College of Arts and Sciences.

Across the US, air pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act are monitored at fixed-location sites. Based on these measurements, the majority of the US does not experience air quality issues. However, these measurement sites may be sparsely distributed through space. Dr. May will discuss two of his projects that seek to address this issue by providing data with improved spatial resolution in areas where people live, work and play using low-cost sensors. These projects include deploying sensors on a transit bus to provide regular, repeated measurements in an urban environment and collaborating with high schools near Columbus, OH to establish a network of sensors throughout the local community. Improved spatial resolution can provide better estimates of localized air pollutant concentrations and better protect children, the elderly and other groups who may be more sensitive to poor air quality.

Wind Turbines Beneath Their Wings: The Toll of Green Energy on Wildlife

Presenter: Megan Seymour, Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Columbus, OH 

Lecture Date: February 18, 2021

Lecture Recording

This event was originally scheduled for March 26, 2020.

Megan Seymour is a Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Columbus, Ohio Ecological Services Field Office, where she has worked for the past 20 years. Her primary duty is to implement various facets of the Endangered Species Act, including listing, consultation, recovery, habitat conservation planning and delisting. Megan was the lead FWS biologist for the Buckeye Wind Habitat Conservation Plan, which resulted in the first incidental take permit for Indiana bats and wind power in the nation. She is currently leading the development of the Blue Creek Wind Farm HCP and contributes to many other wind power and bat initiatives. Megan has served on the USFWS’s Indiana bat and wind working group and on the Northern long-eared bat listing team. Megan was a founding member of the Ohio Wind Working Group in the early 2000’s and led the Wildlife Action Team. Megan received her Bachelor of Science degree, cum laude, in Wildlife Management from The Ohio State University, School of Natural Resources, in 2000.