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Lectures, Seminars, Symposia, & Colloquia

The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) is a strong supporter of the University of Illinois’ educational mission — and that includes encouraging members of the campus community to attend lectures, seminars, symposia, and colloquia that will help them discuss and learn more about issues of sustainability, energy, and environment. This page features one-time talks and series of talks that promote that kind of learning. One example is the iSEE-hosted Charles David Keeling Lecture (see video). To check for individual events of interest, visit the Illinois Sustainability Calendar. Do you know of a series not listed here that would be of interest to iSEE website visitors? Please email us, and we’ll gladly consider adding it!

The Charles David Keeling Lecture

Named for Charles David Keeling, a 1948 graduate of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois who was renowned for making extremely precise measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), this annual lecture explores topics of anthropogenic climate change.

The Lecture is sponsored by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and iSEE. Past sponsors have also included the School of Chemical Sciences (SCS), the School of Earth, Society and Environment (SESE), and the Department of Chemistry, 


Keeling Lecture 2020

As part of Earth Month 2020, Texas Tech’s Katharine Hayhoe delivered the 2020 Charles David Keeling Lecture online on April 20. More than 260 people tuned in for the talk from around the world.

Title: “Climate Science in a Fact-Free World”

Abstract: “Gravity doesn’t care what we believe; if we step off a cliff, we’re going down. And a thermometer doesn’t give us a different answer, depending on how we vote. Yet today, the best predictor of whether we agree that climate is changing and humans are responsible isn’t our level of education or our degree of scientific literacy: It’s simply where we fall on the political spectrum. How can good science inform sound decision-making in a world permeated by the false notion, as Isaac Asimov said, that ‘democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’? The answer lies not in the physical sciences, but in the social science of how we as humans interact with information. By understanding the true roots of denial, it can be possible to constructively engage with deliberate attempts to politicize the science and even identify unexpected areas of common ground on which to build bridges rather than deepen existing trenches.”

Bio: Katharine Hayhoe is an accomplished atmospheric scientist who studies climate change and why it matters to us here and now. She is also a remarkable communicator who has received the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of the Planet award, the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Communication Prize, the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service award, and been named to a number of lists including Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Thinkers, FORTUNE magazine’s World’s Greatest Leaders and the United Nations Champion of the Earth in Science and Innovation. She has served as lead author on the Second, Third, and Fourth National Climate Assessments. She also hosts and produces the PBS Digital Series, Global Weirding, and serves on advisory committees for a broad range of organizations including the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the Earth Science Women’s Network, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hayhoe is the Political Science Endowed Professor in Public Policy and Public Law and co-directs the Climate Center at Texas Tech University. She has a B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Toronto and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of Illinois.

The video:


More About Keeling

Keeling photograph

Charles David Keeling

After receiving his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Northwestern in 1954, Keeling spent most of his career at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography until his death in 2005. As the first to confirm the accumulation of atmospheric CO2, he produced a data set now known widely as the Keeling Curve.

To quote Charles Kennel, former Scripps Director, his measurements “are the single most important environmental data set taken in the 20th century.” Keeling also constructed one of the first models of the carbon cycle into which future man-made CO2 can be introduced to predict concentration levels in the air and water well into the next century.

His first few years of measurements also demonstrated the now well-known seasonal cycle in atmospheric CO2 due to the “breathing” of the biosphere. Read an iSEE profile of Keeling and his legacy >>>


Past Keeling Lecturers

  • 2019 — Kerry Emanuel, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Watch Emanuel’s talk >>>
  • 2018 — Eban Goodstein, Director of the Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy and MBA in Sustainability program. Watch Goodstein’s talk >>>
  • 2017 — Illinois Atmospheric Sciences Professor Emeritus John E. Walsh, former Director of the NOAA/Alaska Cooperative Institute for Arctic Research. Watch Walsh’s talk >>>
  • 2016 — Christopher B. Field, Founding Director of the Carnegie Science Department of Global Ecology and Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies at Stanford University. Watch Field’s talk >>>
  • 2013 — Edward Maibach, Director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University
  • 2011 — Susan Solomon, Adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado and an NOAA Scientist
  • 2010 — Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences and Chair of the National Research Council.
CAS MillerComm Lecture

iSEE has secured MillerComm Lectures as part of its outreach activities each academic year.

The Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hosts the MillerComm Lecture Series each academic year, and the lectures are supported by the Office of the Chancellor, Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the George A. Miller Programs Committee and Peggy Harris Memorial Fund, The Council of Deans, The David Gottlieb Memorial Foundation, and The Graduate College.


2019 MillerComm Fall Lecture

On Nov. 7, in the Spurlock Museum’s Knight Auditorium, Natalie Kofler delivered a MillerComm Lecture on genetic engineering. Kofler is the Stuart L. and Nancy J. Levenick Resident Scholar in Sustainability Leadership at iSEE and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences for the 2019-20 academic year.

Title: “Editing Nature: Governance Hurdles and Ethical Holes in Genetic Engineering”

Abstract: Genetic engineering of wild species has the potential to forever change the natural world in ways that may be irreversible. How then can we ensure these decisions are made with wisdom? Kofler, Founder and Director of Editing Nature, will outline how scientific and value-based knowledge can inform technology decision-making in ways that are both context-dependent and global in scope. The inadequacy of dominant theories in environmental ethics to support such decision-making will also be presented, and an alternative ethos will be proposed: one that respects the interconnectedness of human and environmental health and invites technology into that relationship to augment the flourishing of both.


2019 MillerComm Earth Month Lecture

As part of Earth Month 2018 events organized by iSEE, world-renowned interdisciplinary climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck, the Samuel A. Graham Dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, delivered the 2019 MillerComm Earth Month Lecture on April 26 in the Spurlock Museum’s Knight Auditorium. The title of his talk was “The Big Dry: New Drought Projections for the Southwest, Great Lakes, and Beyond,” and it addressed current assessments of future climate and hydrologic change suggesting that current drylands around the globe could become drier with continued anthropogenic climate change. This is particularly true for the region’s rivers, where the nature of drought is shifting to a more temperature-dominated climate extreme. At the same time, however, some recent and influential scientific assessments suggest that temperature-driven drying could be compensated by precipitation increases with little net increase to water supply or ecosystem risk. 



Past MillerComm Earth Month Lecturers

  • 2018 — Michael Mann, Director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC), “A Return to the Madhouse: Climate Change Denial in the Age of Trump”
  • 2017 — Kim Cobb, ADVANCE Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, on coral bleaching and dying reefs in the central Pacific.
International Food Security at Illinois (IFSI) Symposium

This event, hosted by Food Security at Illinois (IFSI), the Department of Crop Sciences, and the College of ACES Office of Research, highlights the unique capacities of the University of Illinois to improve food systems and help ensure that all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to achieve their human potential. The symposium seeks to foster the development of existing and new collaborations toward solving critical challenges of agricultural production to ensure future food security.

The fifth annual symposium, co-sponsored by AgReach, was April 2-3, 2019, at the ACES Library, highlighted by a keynote address from Senior Research Officer Ed Laws from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on “Improving service delivery and transforming institutions in fragile states; towards a more politically-informed approach.” More about Ed Laws and ODI.

Other sessions included:

  • Information and Communication Technologies for Food Security
  • Approaches to Building Capacity in Research and Extension
  • Strengthening Higher Education Institutions and
  • Evidence of Agricultural Development Approaches through Research.

2019 program >>>

Read more about this event and see past presentations on the College of ACES Office of International Programs’ website.

iSEE Workshop: Nature-Society Interactions in Developing Communities

The Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) invited attendees to the first of two workshops toward establishing a multidisciplinary initiative at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign related to advancing the sustainability of Nature-Society Interactions in Developing Communities. The intent of this first workshop was to bring together researchers (faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students) from across campus to identify synergistic lines of research and build a cohort to pursue external funding. The workshop was Friday, April 5, 2019, in the iSEE Collaboratory at the National Soybean Research Center, 1101 W. Peabody Drive, Urbana

A center point for the discussions was the sustainable provision of safe water and sanitation in East Africa, with the goal of developing a cohesive interdisciplinary vision for sustainable infrastructure systems in resource-limited settings that manage the dynamic interactions between nature and society proactively. Given the central role water and sanitation play in people’s lives and livelihoods in these settings, a broad range of topics are of direct relevance and critical to achieving holistic solutions:

  • agriculture and nutrient management;
  • energy production, use, and financing;
  • nutrition and health;
  • gender equity and power dynamics;
  • economics, entrepreneurship, and marketing;
  • natural resource management and conservation;
  • decision-making and behavior change;
  • water management and treatment;
  • sanitation and resource recovery;
  • governance;
  • international aid and domestic investment in infrastructure and service delivery; and
  • any other topics that will impact or be impacted by water and sanitation systems.

The goals of this first workshop:

  1. enable individual attendees to introduce key sustainability challenges in their respective disciplines;
  2. identify and prioritize research needs and align goals for health, nutrition, income, equity, and environmental sustainability through circular resource management and novel infrastructure; and
  3. establish a cohort of multidisciplinary researchers interested in pursuing external funding to build these concepts into a large-scale initiative at the interface between international development.

If you have questions about how your research may relate to this initiative, please feel free to contact any members of the project team:

Jeremy GuestCivil & Environmental Engineering

Assata ZeraiSociology

Daniel MillerNatural Resources & Environmental Sciences

ISTC Sustainable Seminar Series

ISTC_horiz_cmyk_cs4Each semester, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, puts on the Sustainability Seminar Series. ISTC’s goal is to offer “presentations by researchers, policy makers, and corporate executives on various topics related to sustainability, energy, and the environment. This series is an opportunity to share scientific research with peers in a relaxed, informal environment. Please feel free to bring a lunch. Seminars usually last about an hour and questions are welcome.” To read more about the Series and to see archives from past talks, visit the ISTC website. iSEE intends to post each scheduled event on the Illinois Sustainability Calendar.