University of California, Riverside

Palm Desert Center

Science Lecture Series 2015-16

Science Lecture header

UCR Palm Desert is proud to partner with the UCR College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences to bring you the Spring 2016 Science Lecture Series. The theme for this year's series is: "Sustainability in a Time of Rapid Change: The Future of Earth, Life and Humanity."


May 3:  Catching Rays:  Solar Energy for Today and Tomorrow

Did you know that in the space of a few hours, the sun supplies enough energy to the earth to power human civilization for an entire year? Over the last one billion years, a small fraction of this energy has been converted by living organisms into carbon-based fossil fuels. The rapid depletion of this solar energy “savings account” is now leading to a rise in CO2 levels and potentially catastrophic global warming. The challenge for today’s society is to harness the effectively limitless energy coming from the sun so that it can be used by humans in a sustainable manner. In this talk, UCR Professor Christopher Bardeen will give an overview of how light (photons) coming from the sun can be converted to electrical energy. The current status of photovoltaic solar energy conversion systems will be reviewed, with an emphasis on energy efficiency and cost. We will discuss new approaches to raise photovoltaic efficiencies and lower the overall cost of solar energy, based on scientific discoveries being made at institutions like UC Riverside.

Apr. 26:  Change is the Only Constant: 10,000 Years of Climate Variability in California and What it Means for Our Water Supply10000 years

Ever wonder how bad or unusual the current drought really is? Curious if California is running out of water? Are you confused by talk of El Niño and La Niña? Well, join the club!

In this presentation Professor Sickman will lay out the basics of weather and climate in California and provide a long-term perspective on what the words "below average" and "drought" really mean in our state. He will present information on the elaborate water-works supplying southern California water, spanning an area from northern California to the Rocky Mountains, and discuss, in understandable terms, how large-scale variations in ocean-atmosphere interactions like El Niño impact our water supply. The talk will cover the rich record of past California climate conditions, gleaned from archives such as tree-ring records, lake sediment cores and other sources, so that we can compare the current drought to other dry periods in California during the past 10,000 years. The talk will conclude with a look into the future of water supply in the West as climate warms and snowpacks melt.

About speaker James Sickman: Professor James Sickman is a watershed biogeochemist and limnologist who investigates cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in lakes, rivers and wetlands. Sickman specializes in the application of environmental isotopes to the study of how disturbed and undisturbed ecosystems are affected by major environmental problems such as acid rain, eutrophication, climate-change and surface-water pollution. Since the early 1980s, he has studied high elevation lakes and snowpack dynamics in the Sierra Nevada, and he is lead investigator on a NSF-funded program for long-term study of Emerald Lake in Sequoia National Park, which is the most well-studied high-elevation watershed in California. He is an advisor to the National Park Service and United States Forest Service on issues related to lake management, water supply and impacts of atmospheric deposition and climate change on mountain ecosystems. Sickman’s current research  attempts to reconstruct the past 10,000-year history of snowpack variation in the Sierra Nevada using paleoclimate reconstructions based on lake sediment cores.

Apr. 19:  Canaries in a Coal Mine: Why Pollinators are Sensitive to Global Change a How You Can Help Them monarch butterfly

Pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths play important roles in many natural and agricultural ecosystems. However, worldwide, many pollinator populations appear to be in decline. The decline of wild pollinators is being driven in part by land use change, global warming, and pesticides, and poses a serious threat to human food security and environmental sustainability. In this presentation, the relationships between global change and pollinators are discussed, as well as how pollinators can be bioindicators of overall ecosystem health, and what practical steps can be taken to help support pollinator populations.

About the speaker: Professor S. Hollis Woodard received her Ph.D. in biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012 and was a USDA NIFA Postdoctoral Fellow from 2013-2015. In July 2016, she joined the Entomology Department at the University of California, Riverside. Her research uses genomic and other molecular approaches to study the ecology, evolution, and conservation of bumble bees, with a focus on nutrition, behavior, and health.

Apr. 12:  Earth Under Fire: How and Why our Climate is Changing 

Since the industrial revolution, global average surface temperature has significantly increased, likely making our planet the warmest it has been in the last millennium. Anthropogenic climate change is now likely to continue for many centuries, including not only additional warming of our planet, but also changes in temperature extremes and precipitation, decreases in snow and ice extent, and sea level rise. We are venturing into the unknown with climate, and its associated impacts are likely to be quite disruptive. Speaker: UCR Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences Robert Allen.




More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

UCR Palm Desert Center
75080 Frank Sinatra Drive
Palm Desert, CA 92211

Tel: (760) 834-0800
Fax: (760) 834-0796

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