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William H. Schlesinger
"Human Impacts on Global Nitrogen: The Next Big Problem?"

Voices of Discovery Science Speaker Series

Wednesday, September 16
McCrary Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

Every kindergarten student knows about the evils of carbon dioxide loading, the threat of resulting global warming and at least some strategies by which to address this looming crisis. An equally scary development, but one that is far less recognized, argues Dr. William Schlesinger, is the human impact on another important cycle: the nitrogen cycle.

Dr. Schlesinger is a biogeochemist: a scientist who studies the natural cycles by which chemicals move between the living and nonliving compartments of our world. Human activities are releasing carbon faster than natural processes can cycle it back into safer "storage." Similarly, the release of nitrogen, both atmospheric and terrestrial, has been accelerated by activities such as the burning of nitrogen-containing fossil fuels and the heavy use of inorganic fertilizers for agricultural purposes. Scientists are concerned about increasing negative impacts of excess reactive nitrogen on plant and animal biodiversity, degradation of aquatic ecosystems and other consequences.

The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, where Dr. Schlesinger presides, is an international leader in high-quality ecological research. The institute works to bridge the gap between science and policy needed to address today's complex environmental problems. Books, articles, conferences and workshops sponsored by the Cary Institute encourage dialogue and information exchange among academics, practitioners, and political leaders.

Before joining the Cary Institute, Dr. Schlesinger spent 27 years on the faculty of Duke University and was among the first scientists to quantify the amount ot carbon held in soil organic matter on a global scale, enabling the role of soils in climate change to be estimated. He earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University, and he has served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, past president of the Ecological Society of America and an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow.

Online Resources

Cary Insitutue of Ecosystem Studies homepage

Ticket Information

Admission is free and a ticket is not required