head shot of Romi Burks

Chocolate expert to present at AU’s Environmental Lecture Series on March 30

Published on March 23, 2023
Environmental Science

ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University’s 2022-23 Environmental Lecture Series continues Thursday, March 30, when guest Romi Burks, a professor of biology at Southwestern University, presents “Save the Earth: 10 Reasons to Buy Better Chocolate.” The lecture begins at 7:30 p.m., in Ronk Lecture Hall of the Dwight Schar College of Education (340 Samaritan Ave.), and the first 75 in-person attendees will have the option to sample several varieties of chocolate.

The presentation is free and open to the public, though participants also have the option to attend virtually.

Burks is an aquatic ecologist, but also has a passion for teaching about chocolate. She plans to discuss how all cacao grows at origin within the equatorial belt (except for Hawaii) and to examine how the taste of chocolate depends on where it grows, how the cacao gets fermented and the drying and packaging process of cacao. She’ll also delve into the manufacturing process, which occurs in the industrialized Global North, leading to considerable economic disparities and raising questions about social justice and environmental conversation.

With an expertise in one of the most popular flavors of the world, Burks has built a reputation for effectively translating science to students, public consumers and chocolate professionals through classes, networking and lectures. She teaches a first-year seminar that identifies connections between chocolate and different disciplines, such as art, economics, psychology and literature, as well as a class on the science of chocolate.

Burks’ other areas of interest include molecular ecology, wetland science, apple snails and invertebrate biology. She collaborates with undergraduate researchers to study the distribution of a non-native species of snail in Texas, commonly called apple snails because they can reach the size of an apple. Using a number of applications in her lab, she analyzes environmental DNA to detect where the snails might spread.

More information about the 2022-23 Environmental Lecture Series is available here.

The Environmental Lecture Series was established at AU in 1991-92 and is designed to support the environmental science program by allowing students, faculty and members of the community to interact with leaders in the environmental field.

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.