Willamette University to host Monday lecture on climate change, endangered species

Willamette University is hosting a talk on climate change and renewable energy Monday, in honor of a faculty member winning a regional award for his research.

Dr. Chris Smith, professor of biology, received the 2021 Lynwood W. Swanson Scientific Research Award for his work in evolutionary biology and ecology.

Smith is the first Willamette University faculty member to receive the award, which is for faculty at private undergraduate institutions in the Pacific Northwest.

His Monday lecture, “Climate Change, Renewable Energy, and Endangered Species in Western US: A Catch-22?” will focus on the impact of climate change on ecosystems. 

“Shifting to a carbon-free energy economy while reducing the environmental impacts of renewable energy development will require difficult choices about what we can still save,” reads a promotional article from the university for the event.

Smith’s work looks at the interactions between plants and insects and the role of ecological processes in evolution. He is an expert in yuccas, a plant genus that includes Joshua trees.

“I think in many ways, professor Smith represents the future of biology in the way that he combines traditional fieldwork out in the desert studying the yuccas with the most advanced bioinformatics and genomics that is done anywhere today,” said Dr. Stephen Thorsett, university president, in a video from the M.J. Murdock Trust. who presented the award.

The lecture will be at Paulus Lecture Hall, Willamette University College of Law, 245 Winter St. SE. The reception will be at 6:30 p.m. and the lecture at 7 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.