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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!

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 Musem’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.
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 School of Chemical Sciences (SCS), the School of Earth, Society and Environment (SESE), the Department of Chemistry, the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and iSEE.


Keeling Lecture 2019

As part of Earth Month 2019, MIT’s Kerry Emanuel delivered the 2019 Charles David Keeling Lecture on April 22 in the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois St., Urbana. More details …

Title: “Severe Thunderstorms and Climate”

Abstract: “Severe thunderstorms, which are often associated with strong winds, hail, and tornadoes, pose substantial threats to people, livestock, and agriculture. While their dynamics are well understood, relatively little is known about how climate change (man‐made or natural) might affect such storms. In this talk, I will focus on one of the main environmental prerequisites for severe storms: Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE), which is a measure of the potential energy stored in moist atmospheres that can be released explosively when the potential energy barrier that permits its accumulation breaks. I will discuss the work of my former Ph.D. student that shows, rather unexpectedly, that CAPE usually accumulates over only the 6‐8 hours leading up to the storm and that its build‐up is strongly controlled by soil moisture. I will present observational evidence for this as well as a very simple theoretical model and discuss how climate change should affect CAPE and how the new understanding of CAPE may someday allow for seasonal prediction of severe storm activity.”

Bio: Kerry Emanuel is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has been on the faculty since 1981, after spending three years on the faculty of UCLA. Emanuel’s initial focus was on the dynamics of rain and snow banding in winter storms, but his interests gradually migrated to the meteorology of the tropics and to climate change. His specialty is hurricane physics and he was the first to investigate how long-term climate change might affect hurricane activity, an issue that continues to occupy him today. His interests also include cumulus convection and advanced methods of sampling the atmosphere in aid of numerical weather prediction. Emanuel is the author or co-author of more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers and three books, including Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes, published by Oxford University Press and aimed at a general audience, and What We Know about Climate Change, published by the MIT Press and now entering its third edition. He is a co-director of MIT’s Lorenz Center, a climate think tank devoted to basic, curiosity-driven climate research.



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

  • 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.
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.