Category Archives: Talk

7 October 2022 — 12:00 noon — GAR 4.100 (4th floor of Garrison Hall)

Lawrence E. Gilbert (UT)

“UT’s Brackenridge Field Laboratory — Its History, Role, and Future after 55 Years”

The University of Texas did nothing to earn the ground occupied by BFL, nor was its current use part of any long-term plan. Yet our university finds itself with an asset that anticipates the ever-increasing need of great universities to provide a secure and biologically diverse template for researchers and students to understand rapidly accelerating biological changes on planet earth. How BFL came to be and why it is important to science, education and outreach, is an unlikely tale that intertwines the history of the city of Austin, the original Austin dam, a northerner named George Brackenridge, and the University of Texas.  Without the quarry that made the dam, and without the dam’s collapse, thus smashing Brackenridge’s dream to help develop industry for Austin on his tract of land, BFL would not have happened and would not now be so interesting biologically. This talk highlights some of the research BFL has fostered and explains important synergism between students and research staff and faculty that has been enabled by this unique juxtaposition of laboratory and field so near the campus of a major university.

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Lawrence E. Gilbert is a Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at UT and the Director of the University’s Brackenridge Field Laboratory.

23 September — 12:00 noon — GAR 4.100 (4th floor of Garrison Hall)

Lydia Pyne

“Endlings: Fables for the Anthropocene” 

An endling is the last known individual of a species; when that individual dies, the species becomes extinct. These “last individuals” are poignant characters in the stories that humans tell themselves about today’s Anthropocene. In this talk, Lydia Pyne will draw from her recent book of the same title (University of Minnesota Press, 2022) to explore how our accounts of endlings draw on deep traditions of storytelling across a variety of narrative types that go well beyond the science of these species’ biology or their evolutionary history. The story of endlings touches on a range of big questions: how species start and how (and why) they end, what it means to be a “charismatic” species, the effects of rewilding, and what makes species extinction different in this era. From Benjamin the thylacine to Celia the ibex to Lonesome George the Galápagos tortoise, endlings have the power to shape how we think about grief, mourning, and loss amid the world’s sixth mass extinction.

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Lydia Pyne is a writer and historian interested in the history of science and material culture. She has degrees in history and anthropology and a PhD in biology (history and philosophy of science) from Arizona State University. Her field and archival work has ranged through South Africa, Ethiopia, and Uzbekistan, as well as the American Southwest.

Pyne’s writings have appeared in The AtlanticNautilusSlateHistory Today, Hyperallergic, and TIME, as well as Archaeology. She is the author of Postcards: The Rise and Fall of the World’s First Social Network (Reaktion, 2021), Genuine Fakes: How Phony Things Can Teach Us About Real Stuff (Bloomsbury, 2019),  Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World’s Most Famous Human Fossils (Viking, 2016), Bookshelf (Bloomsbury, 2016), and, with Stephen J. Pyne, The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene (Viking, 2012). She is currently a visiting researcher at the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.