Environmental Science, Policy & Engineering Program

2024 Winter Seminar Series

This year's ESPE winter seminar series is devoted to "Biodiversity: the other environmental crisis"

Climate change, rightfully, dominates much of the public and policy discussion about our environmental future. yet, the global threat to biodiversity is every bit as dangerous for the ability of the ecosphere to sustain our current living standards. This year's ESPE Winter Seminar Series will consider the science and public policy of efforts to conserve biodiversity. We will welcome three exciting speakers who are at the forefront of discussions within New York, regionally within the northeast, and globally.

This winter, the ESPE Winter Seminar Series explores these issues in a series of three talks, all of which are free and open to the public and will be held at Union College in the Nott Memorial at 6PM.

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024 6:00PM

"Protecting New York's wildlife and habitats in a changing climate"

Katharine Petronis Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Katharine Petronis, Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Katie Petronis serves as Deputy Commissioner for Natural Resources for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). In that role, she manages DEC’s natural resource portfolios, which include Lands and Forests, Fish and Wildlife, Marine Resources, and Outdoor Recreation. Prior to her time at DEC, she was with the Open Space Institute (OSI), an East Coast land trust based in New York. During her time at OSI, Ms. Petronis served as Associate Counsel, Project Manager, and Northern Program Director, managing land conservation and recreational planning programs for OSI’s NY conservation work. Additionally, she has served as past Board President for her local community land trust, Saratoga Preserving Land and Nature (PLAN); founding board member and past Board Chair of local community garden and farming education center, Pitney Meadows Community Farm; and board member of the nonprofit environmental publication, Adirondack Explorer. She attended Emory University before earning degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2001. She earned a law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law in 2006, where she served as President of the Environmental Law Society.

DEC Director of Fish & Wildlife, Dr. Jacqueline Lendrum

Jacqueline Lendrum, Director of Fish and Wildlife, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Jackie serves as the Director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). In that role, she works to describe, understand, manage and perpetuate a healthy and diverse assemblage of fish, wildlife, and ecosystems for 20 million New Yorkers. Jackie has spent almost 20 years at DEC working to protect, restore, and safeguard environmental resources and public health. She received a B.S. degree in Biology and Psychology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a PhD in Environmental Health and Toxicology from the State University of New York at Albany in the School of Public Health.

Jackie, a 15-year veteran of the DEC, is one of the nation's foremost water quality experts. She was selected by Commissioner Basil Seggos to lead DEC’s division of Fish and Wildlife in early 2022.

Wednesday, February 7th, 2024 6:00PM

Shahid Naeem, Professor, Columbia University

Dr. Shahid Naeem, Professor in Department of Ecology, Evolution, and the Environment, Columbia University

"Riding Shotgun on the Crest of the Sixth: Environmental Biology in an Age of Mass Extinction"

Thirty years ago, in 1994, the first demonstration that the diversity of life on Earth is integral to the way the Biosphere functions as a living system was published in a scientific journal, and it contributed to a revolution in the way ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and environmental scientists study our plants, animals, and microorganisms. An exciting time in science, but it was a bit late given the Sixth Mass Extinction was well underway. It’s important to note that technically we are not quite there yet, but not to worry; forecasts of extinction indicate that we will definitely reach the benchmark of 75% of our biota lost in a century so we will fully qualify for the official status as the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history. These are tumultuous times, what with climate change, seismic shifts in national and global politics, pandemics, and declining food, water, and energy security – so why worry about a mass extinction? In this presentation, I will share some of the extraordinary findings by scientists who have been riding on the crest of the wave of our current mass extinction that has transformed how we understand the functional significance of the extraordinary diversity of life on Earth. The ecology of mass extinction is complex and intellectually fascinating and well worth exploring if we can put aside the dire environmental consequences it foretells.

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024 6:00PM

Jessica Ottney Mahar headshot

Jessica Ottney Mahar, Director for Policy and Strategy for New York Chapter of The Nature Conservancy

"Combatting the dual crises of biodiversity loss and climate change with local and global action"