Programs & Events

Past Science Cafe Topics

Note: *To request a podcast transcript, contact Chris Meyer at 919.733.7450 ext. 537 ( Please include the date and title of the show in which you are interested.

2012 Topics


July 17, 2012

North Carolina Climate: A Lifetime of Change
Dr. Steve McNulty is a research ecologist and team leader for the USDA Forest Service’s Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, located on the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.  An internationally recognized expert on climate change issues, Dr. McNulty leads the development of research and tools designed to help land managers better understand and cope with climate change impacts on forest management. His research focuses on continental scale forest hydrology, productivity, resource economics, and wildlife and forest diversity modeling, with emphasis given to interactions and response of forests to global climate change and other environmental stresses. Dr. McNulty has written over 150 scientific papers and given hundreds of presentations on this topic during his 30 years of scientific study.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “The only certain things in life are death and taxes,” indicating that change is inevitable.  How has the world changed in the last 30 to 40 years?  Where would we be without cell phones, DVDs, and the Internet? Ecosystems have also historically changed over time; think logged old growth in the lake states, farming in New England, and fires in the South.  What about climate?  Has it stayed the same since 1970 or have you noticed drier summers and warmer winters?  Greater climate variability is the new norm that will increasingly impact our everyday lives.  Whether you live in or travel to the North Carolina mountains, the Piedmont, or the coast, climate change impacts will likely affect your lives in the next 30 years as much as technology has changed your lives during the past 30 years.  Join our July Science Café to meet Dr. Steve McNulty, and learn more about the latest research efforts that could influence the way you view how climate change impacts your family

June 19, 2012

The Battle of North Carolina's Coast
Dr. Riggs is a coastal and marine geologist who has been doing research on modern coastal systems since 1964 and has been on the faculty at East Carolina University since 1967. His research extends from inland river, lake, and pocosin environments, to estuarine and barrier island systems, and seaward across the continental shelf.  Dr. Riggs has been actively involved in numerous technical coastal and mineral resource issues at the Federal, State, and local levels that included appointments to many commissions, task forces, panels, and committees. These appointments, as well as many of his publications, have dealt directly with integrating scientific understanding and utilization and management of various coastal systems including such critical issues as climate change and sea-level rise, shoreline erosion and land loss, hazard zone delineation, inlet dynamics, water quality, and habitat preservation (i.e., hardbottom reefs, salt marshes, maritime forests, etc.), and natural resources (i.e., water, beach nourishment sand, as well as resources critical for energy, food production, building, etc.).

The North Carolina barrier islands, a 325-mile-long string of narrow sand islands that forms the coast of North Carolina, are one of the most beloved areas to live and visit in the United States. However, extensive barrier island segments and their associated wetlands are in jeopardy.Our North Carolina barrier islands are not permanent. Rather, they are highly mobile piles of sand that are impacted by sea-level rise and major storms and hurricanes. Our present development and management policies for these changing islands are in direct conflict with their natural dynamics.Stan Riggs will talk about some of the environmental and economic problems facing coastal North Carolina, and offer a hopeful vision for the coast's future if we are willing to adapt to the barriers' ongoing and natural processes. This will require a radical change in our thinking about development and new approaches to the way we visit and use the coast. Ultimately, we cannot afford to lose these unique and valuable islands of opportunity.Stan Riggs is one of four experts on barrier islands who co-authored The Battle for North Carolina's Coast: Evolutionary History, Present Crisis, and Vision for the Future (University of North Carolina Press, Fall, 2011). This book is an urgent call to protect our coastal resources and preserve our coastal economy. A book signing will take place following the discussion.
This Café was made possible through a partnership with the NC Coastal Federation.


May 15, 2012

Cancer Drugs from Nature
Wani and Wall received many awards together, including the Charles F. Kettering Prize for Cancer Research. After Wall’s passing in 2002, Dr. Wani presided over the dedication of the RTI Natural Products Laboratory as a National Historic Chemical Landmark of the American Chemical Society in 2003. Wani also received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Indiana University in 2004. In 2005, Wani received the North Carolina Award for science, the highest civilian honor in the state. Following “retirement” in 2008, Wani continues to work at his RTI office and contribute to drug discovery research at other institutions
For more information on the history of the discoveries of Taxol and campothecin, see this excellent article by the American Chemical Society at:
A more personal interview with Dr. Wani can be found at:
At least 25% of prescription and non-prescription drugs in the U.S. can trace their origins to “natural products”: chemicals that are made by plants, bacteria, fungi, marine creatures, among others. Many antibiotics and cholesterol-lowering drugs are the most common drugs with roots in nature.
For this month’s Science Café, we will hear from a living treasure of the state of North Carolina, Dr. Manusukh Wani. A native of Bombay, India, who then earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Indiana University, Wani arrived here in 1962 to join the Natural Products Laboratory of Research Triangle Institute (RTI). RTI was the first research laboratory established following the incorporation of Research Triangle Park in 1959. During Wani’s 44-year career there, he was credited as co-discoverer of not one but two life-saving anticancer drugs derived from plants.
Best known of these is Taxol, or paclitaxel, first isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, a drug that revolutionized the treatment of ovarian, breast, and lung cancer. Together with his long-time colleague and lab director, the late Dr. Monroe Wall, Wani also identified a drug called camptothecin from a Chinese ornamental tree grown in California. Camptothecin gave rise to two new anticancer drugs, topotecan and irinotecan, that are used to treat colon cancer and other malignancies. Each of the drugs killed cancer cells in ways that were not previously known to science.

April 24, 2012

I Speak for the Trees
Dr. Meg Lowman ( is Director of the Nature Research Center, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and a research professor at NC State University. Over the past three decades, “Canopy Meg” has earned an international reputation as a pioneer in forest canopy ecology, tropical rain forest conservation, and for designing canopy access tools including ropes, hot-air balloons, walkways and construction cranes. Equipped with degrees in biology, ecology and botany, Lowman developed her childhood interest of building tree forts into mapping canopy biodiversity worldwide and spearheading the construction of canopy walkways in tropical forests for conservation. She uses science education to influence government policy and encourage environmental stewardship. Her book, "Life in the Treetops," earned a cover review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. Dubbed by National Geographic as the “real-life Lorax,” Nature Research Center Director Meg Lowman will talk about the state of global forests. How much forest is enough? Why are forests important to keeping us alive? What is the future prognosis for trees now that over 7 billion people inhabit planet Earth? What is the true function of a tree in our landscape?  This Science Café launches a new series in our own Daily Planet Café on 121 West Jones Street in the northwest corner of the NRC building. In addition to talking about trees, Dr. Lowman will lead a short discussion to solicit your ideas for future Science Café topics, as well as other cool science activities in the new NRC.

March 20, 2012

Clash of the Titans: Dinosaurs of the American West
Lindsay E. Zanno, Ph. D. is serving as Director of the Museum’s new Nature Research Center’s Paleontology and Geology Laboratory.  Dr. Zanno comes to the NRC from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where she was an Assistant Professor of Anatomy, and the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, where she remains a Research Associate in the Department of Geology.  Her primary interest centers on the morphology, evolutionary relationships, and paleoecology of theropod dinosaurs—a group that includes the iconic megapredator T. rex as well as living birds. 
The Early Cretaceous was a time of turmoil across the American West.  Titan-lizards (sauropods) and gargantuan predators (allosaurs) thundered across the landscape, dominating terrestrial ecosystems as they had for millions of years.  Little did they know that their reign in North America was drawing to a close.  A wave of new "super-charged" dinosaurs emigrating from Asia was about to hit the west coast and change the landscape forever.  Join Nature Research Center Paleontologist Dr. Lindsay Zanno for a chat about her team's latest dinosaur expeditions in the American West and learn how the dinosaurs from these two great continents clashed here in North America and who survived the epic confrontation

February 21, 2012

Science Cafe: Love … it's not what you think it is
Dr. Thomas Gualtieri is the medical director of the North Carolina Neuropsychiatry Clinics and author of several books and more than 100 scientific articles. He graduated from Columbia in 1969 and was trained in psychiatry and child psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. He was on the faculty at UNC for eleven years, where his research interests were in psychopharmacology and neuropsychiatry.  Dr. Gualtieri is a pioneer in the field of computerized neurocognitive testing development and implementation. Among his recent books are Brain Injury and Mental Retardation: Neuropsychiatry and Psychopharmacology and Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Pharmacology. Currently, Dr. Gualtieri is writing Mild Cognitive Disorders and Your ex-husband is in this book.

Love may not be what you think it is — which is probably just as well. New developments in neuroscience have given us a much better idea of what love is and how it works. Is any of the science relevant to your life?  It's interesting that the most important decision of one’s life — whom to spend the rest of it with — is usually made by young people, who are the least equipped to make it.  Mistakes in love and marriage are more common than we would like to think, especially at this season of the year.   Can science and erudition guide our decisions better than intuition and dumb luck?

January 17, 2012

Which Comes First, Peak Everything or Peak Us?
Andrew Revkin, a prize-winning journalist, online communicator and author, has spent more than a quarter of a century covering subjects ranging from the assault on the Amazon to the Asian tsunamis, from the troubled relationship of science and politics to climate change at the North Pole. From 1995 through 2009, he covered the environment for The New York Times. In 2010, he became the senior fellow for environmental understanding at Pace University's Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies. He continues to write his Dot Earth blog for the Op-Ed section of The New York Times, which has its own YouTube channel ( While the media largely ignored the climate story until the last few years, Revkin spent more than 20 years immersed in this subject, producing more than 500 magazine and newspaper stories, two books, a prize-winning Discovery-Times documentary, “Arctic Rush,” and hundreds of posts on his blog. In 2008, he became the first science writer to receive one of journalism’s top honors, the John Chancellor Award, for more than two decades of pioneering coverage of the science and politics of global warming. In spare moments, he is a performing songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who occasionally accompanies Pete Seeger at regional shows and plays in a folk-blues band, Uncle Wade (

Most people alive today will witness a momentous juncture in the history of the human species–the point when explosive growth in human numbers and appetites crests and is followed by . . . no one knows. Decisions made today about energy, education, urban design, and other matters can help smooth the transition from a sprint to a marathoner’s gait. Business as usual will almost assuredly lead to unnecessary losses.  So will resource limits (including the limited capacity of the atmosphere and oceans to provide a disposal site for human-generated greenhouse gases) impose population or economic declines?  Or will the longstanding pattern of shifts in what we define as a resource, along with changes in technology and behavior, allow Homo sapiens to keep threading needles from one pinch point through another?  Are humans capable of influencing which comes first — peak everything or peak us?

2011 Topics

November 15, 2011

You Can’t See This - Nanotechnology
Dr. Jesse Jur is an Assistant Professor of Textile Engineering, Chemistry & Science at NC State University’s College of Textiles. He received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from N.C. State and has spent the last 12+ years researching primarily at the nanoscale, including experiences in the semiconductor and opto-electronics industries. His research now mainly focuses on applying the use of nanotechnology to textiles applications. His research is funded by the textiles industry consortiums, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.
Four more orders of magnitude down from a millimeter is 1000 nm (1 micrometer)….the ‘start’ of nanotechnology.  Since Richard Feynman’s 1959 visionary talk “There’s plenty of Room at the Bottom”, technologists have dedicated themselves to exploring the frontiers of scaling down to the nano.  As if achieving such a feat wasn’t challenging enough, the physics of materials now begin to change in this realm.  But its all worth the frustration (and price): better computing, protective textiles, and revolutionary medical delivery methods.   There is no doubt that our world has changed and will continue to change because of new advancements in nanotechnology.  In this discussion we will explore nanotechnology and consider where it is going.

October 18, 2011

Future of Coal in a Changing Climate
Albert Lin currently serves as Chairman and CEO of EmberClear, an energy project development firm with exclusive rights to certain chemistry technologies developed and controlled by Huaneng Power Group, China’s largest power utility. EmberClear’s ability to deploy technical solutions from China to create projects around the world has drawn international attention based on the high efficiency and environmentally positive results. A new electricity generation plant in Good Spring, Pennsylvania, has been permitted and is working to secure customers so that construction may commence. The ability to have a near-zero emission commercial-scale solution for creating energy from coal is viewed to be a necessary goal for addressing global climate concerns and EmberClear has been working on several plants of this type around the world.  Albert Lin’s visit to Raleigh is made possible, in part, by “Earth: The Operators’ Manual”, (ETOM), a TV+online+on-site education and outreach project, supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in ETOM are those of PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE / Geoff Haines-Stiles Productions, Inc., and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation.
The US and China are the world’s biggest emitters of CO2 which is a major contributor to global climate change. The combusting of coal and petroleum are the leading activities generating these emissions, but coal continues to outgrow all other energy types as developing countries seek more electricity. Even the shift in transportation energy from petroleum  towards electricity keeps demand for coal-based electricity high in many parts of the world. With a vast coal infrastructure and more than a billion people who need energy, China is taking the lead on developing new, cleaner technologies for using coal as an energy source. But will it work? Chinese and American scientists and engineers are working to develop technologies to retrofit existing coal burning plants that could result in up to 90% reduction in harmful emissions. New designs, like China’s “GreenGen” power plant could use coal while generating emissions cleaner than natural gas and, along with other renewable energy technologies, could dramatically decrease pollution. Join our Café to hear about current technologies being developed in China and the US that could improve energy production at home and worldwide and why addressing climate is linked so closely to coal usage.

September 20, 2011

Birds in the Chimney
John Gerwin is the Curator of Birds at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. Currently he is conducting research on the nesting success of Swainson’s Warbler and Painted Buntings along the southeastern coast.

John Connors is the Coordinator of the Naturalist Center at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. He leads hikes each season to view roosting swifts and is spearheading a cooperative effort between the Museum and Wake Audubon to establish a Chimney Swift Research Roost at Prairie Ridge.
In 1682 a swift was found nesting for the first time in a chimney at a colonist’s cabin in Maine. This event forever changed the relationship between this species of bird, the Chimney Swift, and people. Today the species is essentially dependent on using man-made chimneys for its nest sites, and for its large migratory roosts. For years the behavioral adaptation to switch from hollow trees to chimneys proved advantageous for swifts but recently increasing numbers of homeowners cap their chimneys and fewer are now available. What’s changed?  In this Science Café we’ll discuss the natural, and un-natural, history of Chimney Swifts, describe early research on swifts including the largest all-volunteer research project ever undertaken to study the migration path of a single species of bird, and look at current efforts to study the species in this community. We’ll also describe what its like to harbor a nesting swift, or a 5000-bird swift roost. Finally we’ll make the case that the future of this species really does depend on you.

August 16, 2011

Up in Smoke: The Science of Fire
Ronald Campbell is Fire Prevention Coordinator/Deputy Fire Marshal with the City of Raleigh Fire Department. He is a third-generation firefighter and has a Master’s degree in educational administration. Currently he coordinates the city’s fire prevention programs and works out of the Fire Marshal’s Office.
Why do things burn? What causes a seemingly small flame to become an inferno? What is a flashover or a backdraft? Do fires really behave the way they do in the movies? How can I keep my family safe? Fire is one of the most common and misunderstood elements in nature and in our lives. Each year more than 3,000 people die in home structure fires in the United States. Join us to learn more about the science of fire, as well as how to make yourself safer not just at home, but when you are out and about.

July 19, 2011

Global Climate Change: A Primer
Orrin Pilkey is a research professor, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Earth and Ocean Sciences, and Director Emeritus of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) within the Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University.
Is climate change real? How is it happening and how can we slow its progression? During this Café we will learn about the science of global climate change and the damage that rising temperatures are causing: sea level rise, ocean acidification, glacier and sea ice melting, changing habitats, desertification, and the threats to animals, humans, coral reefs, marshes and mangroves. We will also discuss the arguments typically advanced by global change deniers. Could fossil fuel companies be promoting the controversy? 

June 21, 2011

Genetic Research in the 21st Century
Dr. Jeffrey Stumpf earned his B.S. in Biology from Xavier University in Cincinnati and his Ph.D. in Genetics from Indiana University. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the mitochondrial replication group. For ten years, Dr. Stumpf has studied genetics of DNA replication and repair and the origins of mutations. Dr. Stumpf’s current research focuses on using yeast genetics as a model system to study human mutations that cause mitochondrial disease. As a contributing writer to the Environmental Factor newsletter, Dr. Stumpf is interested in communicating genetics and DNA replication to scientists and non-scientists alike.
From solving crimes, to increasing crop production, to diagnosing and curing diseases, the study of genetics has become the key to finding answers for many of our modern day challenges and mysteries.  But what is DNA? How do mutations happen? Do we all really understand how genetic studies are done and how they benefit our lives?Join us in a discussion about genetic research and in particular research on genetic diseases.  What are the challenges and ethical questions that can arise in this area of science?

May 17, 2011

The Stealth Pathogen: Bartonella
Dr. Edward Breitschwerdt is a Professor of Internal Medicine at NC State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center.  An internationally recognized expert on vector-borne infectious diseases, Dr. Breitschwerdt directs the Intracellular Pathogens Research Laboratory in the NC State Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research.
Cardiologists, neurologists and rheumatologists are often baffled on their journey to the diagnosis of diseases that are linked to cat scratch disease (CSD). Recent discoveries show that the bacteria Bartonella, best known for causing CSD, is actually responsible for a host of serious illnesses in humans that may have been misdiagnosed due to lack of awareness in the medical community. Twenty years ago only two species of the bacteria Bartonella were known, whereas today the number of identified Bartonella species (sometimes referred to as the stealth pathogen) has increased to twenty-six and counting. This bacteria has co-evolved with dogs, cattle, squirrels ... even groundhogs, and is being transmitted to humans by fleas, lice and possibly ticks. Join us to learn more about how the “One Medicine” approach to researching vector-borne diseases has opened the way for important medical discoveries.

April 19, 2011

Black Holes - Relentless Attraction of Gravity 
John Blondin is an Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor of Physics at North Carolina State University where he has introduced many students to astrophysics research, mentoring over 75 undergraduate research projects.   Dr. Blondin received his doctoral degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics from The University of Chicago in 1987.  He is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award and a Sigma Xi Research Award, as well as being named a Cottrell Scholar, an NCSU Alumni Outstanding Teacher, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. 
Television and movies often portray black holes as tunnels for time travel or as cosmic vacuum cleaners sucking up all light and matter within their vast reach.  What in fact are black holes?  How do we know that they even exist?  Join us to learn about recent NASA X-ray observations of these phenomena, and about the work being done at NCSU that models the accretion of "normal" stars into black holes as well as the existence of super-massive black holes believed to be found in most galaxies.

March 15, 2011

Security in the Digital Age – Are We Safe?
Douglas Reeves is a Professor of Computer Science at N.C. State University, specializing in networking and security.  He received his PhD in Computer Science from Penn State.  His research is funded by the National Science Foundation, and he consults regularly with industry.
Most of us are aware that computer and network security are important.  You may even be aware that smartphones are a new "target of opportunity" for attackers, but not much more than that.  Who are the attackers, and why are they attacking us?  More importantly, what's at stake, how can you protect yourself, and are we winning or losing the battle?

February 15, 2011

Prevention of Heart Disease: Managing Risk Factors
Deepak Pasi, M.D. is a board certified cardiologist and completed fellowships in both cardiology and interventional cardiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has practiced cardiology for twenty five years and is a member of Rex Heart & Vascular Specialists in Raleigh. 
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Why is heart disease different in women versus men? Why are some people more prone to heart disease than others? Is a healthy diet and exercise enough to prevent it?  Will statins prevent heart disease in healthy people? What role does second hand smoke really play? Prevention is key to minimizing the impact of heart disease on our bodies, our longevity and our quality of life. We'll explore the risk factors, the role of genetics and the things we can do to minimize heart disease.

January 18, 2011

Rain Forests:  Going, Going, Gone?
Dr. Meg Lowman ( is Director of the Nature Research Center, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and a research professor at NC State University. Over the past three decades, “Canopy Meg” has earned an international reputation as a pioneer in forest canopy ecology, tropical rain forest conservation, and for designing canopy access tools including ropes, hot-air balloons, walkways and construction cranes. Equipped with degrees in biology, ecology and botany, Lowman developed her childhood interest of building tree forts into mapping canopy biodiversity worldwide and spearheading the construction of canopy walkways in tropical forests for conservation. She uses science education to influence government policy and encourage environmental stewardship. Her book, "Life in the Treetops," earned a cover review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.
Every child grows up with a sense of awe about tropical forests -- extraordinary creatures including poison dart frogs, sloths, orchids and jaguars representing a veritable treasure-trove of biodiversity. But scientists estimate that more than half of Africa's rain forests are gone, with at least 40 percent losses in Asia and Latin America and 95 percent in Madagascar. Even with new technologies, measuring tropical deforestation is not easy, and illegal logging is epidemic in many parts of the world. What is the prognosis for the future of tropical rain forests? And how will human beings fare if these vital ecosystems disappear? What essential services do tropical forests provide for the planet, and how can we conserve them for our children?

2010 Topics

November 16, 2010

Where Have All the Frogs Gone?

Bryan Stuart is currently the Curator of Herpetology at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. In 2006, Stuart received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois-Chicago working in a collaborative program with the Field Museum. He remains a Research Associate and close collaborator with the Field Museum and also completed a two-year postdoctoral program at UC-Berkeley before joining the Museum staff here in Raleigh. Stuart has authored and co-authored numerous publications about reptiles and amphibians in several prominent scientific journals, such as Herpetologica and Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. He travels often and extensively in Southeast Asia as well as Africa for his current research and study of herpetological biodiversity.
Since the 1980s, dramatic reductions in amphibian populations (including population crashes and mass localized extinctions) have been noted from locations all over the world. Currently, the loss of these animals (especially frogs) is thought to be one of the most critical threats to global biodiversity. Many of the causes are still poorly understood, and the topic is the subject of much ongoing research. Join us to discuss what is known and what is yet to be known about the global loss of such an important group of animals. 

October 20, 2010

March of the Fossil Penguins
Dr. Daniel Ksepka is a paleontologist at North Carolina State University and a research associate at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. His research focuses on reconstructing the evolutionary tree of birds and understanding the transition from aerial flight to underwater wing-propelled diving in groups like penguins and the now extinct plotopterid birds. Ksepka has traveled to South America and New Zealand to collect and study fossil penguins.
Penguins are familiar faces at zoos and aquariums, but they evolved long before humans. These fascinating birds have been around for more than 60 million years, during which they survived dramatic changes in climate, wholesale re-arrangements of the continents, and the rise of new mammalian competitors. Thanks to their dense bones, penguins have left behind a rich fossil record that we can use to trace their geographical expansion and morphological evolution. In this Science Cafe we will get to know some of the diverse cast of extinct penguins, including primitive species from the deep past, spear-billed penguins from Peru, and giants that would have towered over today's Emperor Penguins.

September 21, 2010

Growth in NC - Smart or not Smart?
Dan Douglas is Director of Urban Planning and Design at KlingStubbins Architects where he focuses his efforts on projects that weave together Economic Development, Sustainability, Urban Design and Civic Participation. He recently completed a citizen-driven Retail Vision and Strategic Plan for Long Beach, California and is currently working on a new Development Framework and Investment Strategy for downtown Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Join us for a discussion about Smart Growth, an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in the center of a city to avoid urban sprawl. In a time when climate change and all of its causes are becoming more and more apparent, the value of Smart Growth planning is becoming an important long-range regional consideration for sustainability. Its goals are to achieve a unique sense of community and place; expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices; equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development; preserve and enhance natural and cultural resources; and promote public health.

August 17, 2010

The Insects that Bug Us
Richard Santangelo is a research specialist in the Entomology Department at North Carolina State University. His work focuses on urban pest control aspects of entomology, including pesticide resistance monitoring of cockroaches and bed bugs, product testing of commercial insecticides for pest control, and allergen intervention in low income housing and hog farms. Santangelo has also worked on a Colorado Spider Survey with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and biological control of cotton pests in Arizona. 
After disappearing from many countries for almost 50 years, bed bugs have made a comeback and are once again sucking our blood while we sleep and stowing away in our luggage when we travel. Cockroaches, on the other hand, have always been a fact of life for people living in the South, but all roaches are not the same — some are part of our outdoor environment and only end up in our homes by accident, while others are only found in buildings and produce allergens that can pose health risks.  In this Science Café, we explored some of the urban legends related to bed bugs, observed some insects to get an idea of what to watch out for, and discussed how you can keep these tiny vampires out of your home. We also discussed do-it-yourself options for cockroach control as well as  some cockroach identification tips.

July 20, 2010

A Nuclear Renaissance
Professor David N. McNelis has more than 45 years of environmental sciences and engineering experience in federal government, university and industry settings.  He currently serves as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economic Development in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment and as President of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Technologies, LLC and as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at NCSU.
From its development in the 1950s and ‘60s to the protests against its use in the 1970s and ‘80s, commercial nuclear energy in the United States has always been surrounded by debate. Opponents of its use have presented possible risks to the environment and human health. Meanwhile, proponents cite it as a sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions and eases dependence on foreign oil.  In February 2010, the federal government approved a loan guarantee for the construction of two nuclear reactors in Georgia, which would be the first plants to start construction in the U.S. since the 1970s. What does this renewed commitment to nuclear power mean to our energy future? What will it mean for our environment and our health?  Come to our café and join in on a discussion of a Nuclear Renaissance.

June 15, 2010

The Human-Animal Bond
Dr. Dianne Dunning is a clinical associate professor and the director of the Animal Welfare, Ethics and Public Policy Program (AWEPP) at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.
Animals touch our daily lives from the pets we keep, to the food we eat, to the health care advances we enjoy. Current animal welfare concerns include pet overpopulation, rescue and care of animals in disasters, treatment of food animals, biomedical research involving animals, and the affects of global urbanization and environmental change on wildlife. Our evolving human-animal bond and the mandate to be good stewards of animal welfare are at the heart of these concerns. Join our discussion about how the integration of veterinary medicine and animal science, as well as ethics and public policy, can dictate how successfully these concerns are addressed, and how the diverse needs of humans and animals are met on a local and global scale.

May 18, 2010

Geologic Forces in North Carolina and Beyond
Dr. Kevin Stewart has been a professor of Geological Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill for the past 24 years. Stewart’s research focuses on the deformation of the earth’s crust and the tectonic history of mountain belts. He has worked in the southern Appalachians, the Rocky Mountains, and the Apennines in Italy. He recently co-authored a book published by UNC Press titled "Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas".
Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, rising seas! These geologic events have been making the headlines lately, but did you know these same events have shaped the North Carolina landscape for the past billion years?  We tend to think of our state as being far from the geologic action, but we once had Himalayan-scale mountain ranges and exploding volcanoes. Join us as we discuss the geologic history of North Carolina as well as the global geologic events that are occurring today.

April 20, 2010

Clash of the Titans
Rogelio Sullivan is the Associate Director of the Advanced Transportation Energy Center and also of the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems Center (FREEDM) at NCSU. 
There are approximately 250 million cars on U.S. roads today, fueled primarily by imported oil, and demand is growing. The electric utilities are in the midst of a "Smart Grid" revolution, driven by new technology, increased demand, and need for higher reliability and security.  The U.S. government, along with the auto and electric utility industries, are currently striving for electrification of the transportation sector by way of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. All-electric vehicles can provide significant oil savings, improved air quality, reduced energy costs to consumers, increased energy diversity, and support for the electric grid. But are U.S. drivers ready to go all electric?

March 23, 2010

Our Bodies: The Final Frontier
Rob Dunn is an ecologist in the Department of Biology at North Carolina State University where he studies the global distribution of life and how it is changing as we change the world.
We have come to think of the world as known. It isn’t. Even basic parts of our own bodies remain totally unexplored. For example, have you ever stopped to wonder why you are naked? Aside from naked mole rats, we are among the only land mammals to be essentially devoid of hair. Why? Join us for a discussion about the human body and its adaptations to a world filled with predators, pathogens and parasites. Bring your appendix, if you still have one, and learn about its special purpose.

February 16, 2010

Forgetting Something?
S. Mitchell Freedman, MD, FAAN, is a member of the medical staff at Rex Hospital and Adjunct Professor of Neurology with the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
All of us misplace our car keys now and again.  Most of us get lost while driving from time to time. We all have been to cocktail parties and have run into someone familiar whose name just escapes us. We often toss off such events as “senior moments.”  These trivial events trouble us because they reflect a short circuiting of brain function.  Do they mean anything serious is wrong with us or are they just annoying bumps in the road?  This cafe addressed the issues of memory loss, dementia, and aging.

January 19, 2010

GPS and Geocaching Fun
James Jeuck is an Extension Specialist at NCSU Extension Forestry. 
GPS (Global Positioning System) was developed for our military but we have quickly made it a civilian-based utility required for business, travel and recreation. Come learn the technology behind GPS — from satellites and trilateration to binary codes and radio frequencies — as well as some of its surprising and innovative applications and glimmers into the future of this technology.  We’ll discuss the phenomena behind geocaching, its health benefits, necessary and useful gear, and resources for even more information.

2009 Topics

November 17

Dog Genome Teaching Scientists New Tricks
Matthew Breen, professor of genomics in the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine, co-directs the Clinical Genomics Core of the Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research at NC State. 
For thousands of years, humans and dogs have shared a unique bond—breathing the same air, drinking the same water, and living in the same environment. During the 21st century this relationship is now strengthened into one that may hold intriguing biomedical possibilities. Using the 'One Medicine' concept— the idea that human and animal health relies on a common pool of medical and scientific knowledge and is supported by overlapping technologies and discoveries; research is revealing that the dog genome may hold the keys to unlocking some of nature’s most intriguing puzzles about human cancer.

October 20

Crossing the Line?  Biomedical Technology in Sports
Phillip Barron works as a Digital Media Specialist at the National Humanities Center in Durham, where he is managing editor of the "On the Human" project. He is also the sole proprietor of the digital media design company, nicomedia, LLC.
In the end, it was a split second rather than an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruling that kept double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius from competing in the Beijing Summer Olympics. He didn't hit the 400-meter qualifying time of 45.55 seconds, despite running a personal best 46.25 on his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs at a track meet in Lucerne, Switzerland. In this talk, National Humanities Center digital media specialist Phillip Barron explores ways that advances in biomedical science and technology are challenging our traditional notions of acceptable sports practices and offers some suggestions for how we can create rules of sport that sustain these technological innovations.

September 22

Sandeep Vaishnavi, M.D., PhD serves as Medical Director at North Carolina Neuropsychiatry Clinic in Raleigh.

August 18

North Carolina Snakes: Facts and Fiction
Daniel S. Dombrowski, M.S., DVM is currently the Veterinarian and Coordinator of Living Collections at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.
Did you know that North Carolina is home to almost 40 species of native snakes and all but six of them are non-venomous and considered harmless?  Of the six venomous species found in our state, only one, the Copperhead, occurs statewide and is likely to be encountered in Wake County. Unfortunately, snakes are often feared and misunderstood, with many harmless species being misidentified and killed. In this café we will discuss topics including the natural history and identification of these animals, current NC legislation about snakes and other exotic reptiles, as well as the challenges involved with keeping snakes in a public Museum. 

July 21

Energy for the Future
Professor David N McNelis serves as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economic Development in the U.N.C. at Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment and as President of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Technologies, LLC.
What does our energy future look like? As new options become available, how soon will we see a difference in transportation and in the supply and use of electricity in our homes and businesses? What are some realistic expectations we should have for the reduction of carbon emissions from energy use?

June 16

The Science of Chocolate
Dr. Gabriel Keith Harris is an Assistant Professor of Food Science at North Carolina State University.
From drinks to desserts, chocolate is a favorite that is loved by cultures worldwide.  Can a food as delicious as chocolate also be good for your health?  Join us to learn about the history of chocolate from ancient times to modern day manufacturing, and find out what current research is telling us about the science of this special food.
MP3: The Science of Chocolate

May 19

Letting it All Hang Out, The Personal Genome Project
Dr. Misha Angrist, Assistant Professor of the Practice at the Duke University Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy
MP3: Letting it All Hang Out, The Personal Genome Project

April 21

Think Globally, Eat Locally
Dr. Jeana Myers, Soil Scientist at the NCDA&CS.
MP3: Think Globally, Eat Locally

March 24

Darwin lives on: how gene-environment interactions affect modern society
Dr. David Reif, Statistician in the National Center for Computational Toxicology at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
In the 150 years since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, there has been great debate (political, spiritual, and scientific) over the implications of natural selection for human beings: What does our shared evolutionary history have to do with common, complex diseases? How might genetics shape differential susceptibility to the multitude of chemicals— both manufactured and natural— present in the environment? How do modern lifestyles impact the evolutionary process? Join us as we discuss these and other questions concerning the interplay between our genes and the environment.
MP3: Darwin Lives On

February 17

Sleep and Sleep Disorders
Yvette R. Cook, Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Medical Director of Rex Sleep Disorders Center.
MP3: Sleep and Sleep Disorders

January 28

Supernovae: The Violent Deaths of Stars
Dr. Stephen Reynolds, Professor of Physics, NC State University
Massive stars end their lives in spectacular supernova explosions. These explosions are visible across the Universe and they blast material into space; material that contributes to future generations of stars, produces cosmic rays and stirs up interstellar gases. Many heavy elements, including the calcium in our bones and trace amounts of copper and zinc in our bodies, are formed only in supernovae; we are quite literally made of star stuff. Some supernovae can even be used to gauge distances to remote galaxies; from these we have learned the astonishing fact that the expansion of our Universe is actually picking up speed. Join us as we discuss ongoing work on supernovae, their remnants and related astronomical work.
MP3: Supernovae

2008 Topics

November 18

What Have You Been Drinking?
Dr. Greg Cope, Professor of Environmental Toxicology; NC State University
Dr. Arthur Bogan, Curator of Aquatic Invertebrates; NC Museum of Natural Sciences

As development constantly increases in North Carolina, pollutants such as silt, street runoff and processed waste water are all entering our water supply at higher rates each year. Learn how this is affecting our local aquatic ecosystems and ultimately the water that each of us drinks every day. Do you know what’s in your water?
MP3: What Have You Been Drinking?

October 14

The Behavior and Misbehavior of Dogs
Barbara Sherman is clinical associate professor at the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and president of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
MP3: The Behavior and Misbehavior of Dogs

September 16

Six-legged Solutions: Become Earth Friendly and Eat a Bug
Dave Gracer is a teacher, writer, family man and president of Sunrise Land Shrimp, the edible insect company
MP3: Six-legged Solutions

August 19

Monster Storms – Hurricanes in North Carolina
Dr. Ryan Boyles, State Climatologist and Director of the State Climate Office at NC State University
Dr. Anantha Aiyyer, Assistant Professor in the Department of Marine, Earth, Atmospheric Sciences at North Carolina State University
MP3: Monster Storms

July 22

From Papyrus to Nano-fibrils: The History and Science of Paper
Dr. Med Byrd, researcher in the Department of Wood and Paper Science in the NCSU College of Natural Resources
MP3: From Papyrus to Nano-fibrils

June 17

One Medicine Approach to a Changing World
Dr. Barrett Slenning, associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, NC State University
MP3: One Medicine Approach to a Changing World

May 20

Genetically Engineered Insects: A New Kind of Pest Control
Fred Gould, PhD., William Neal Reynolds Professor of Entomology at NC State University
MP3: Genetically Engineered Insects: Discussion
MP3: Genetically Engineered Insects: Questions - Part 1
Genetically Engineered Insects: Questions - Part 2

April 15

Going Green with Alternative Fuels:  Not so Fast!
John Bonitz, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Marc Dreyfors, The Forest Foundation
MP3: Going Green with Alternative Fuels: Discussion
MP3: Going Green with Alternative Fuels: Questions 

March 25

Forests and Forecasts: The Effects of Trees on Climate Change
Dennis Hazel and John King, NC State University Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources
MP3: Forests and Forecasts - Part 1
MP3: Forests and Forecasts - Part 2

February 19

Altered States: Inside the Teenage Brain
Dr. Wilkie Wilson, Director of BrainWorks, Professor of Pharmacology, Duke University
MP3: Altered States - Part 1
MP3: Altered States - Part 2

January 15

Drought in NC — Outlook for 2008 and Beyond
Dr. Ryan Boyles, State Climatologist and Director of the State Climate Office at NC State University
MP3: Drought in NC - Part 1
MP3: Drought in NC - Part 2

2007 Topics

November 27

Our Future State
Dr. Robert McMahan, Sr. Advisor to the Governor of North Carolina for Science and Technology and the Executive Director of the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology
MP3: Our Future State - Part 1
MP3: Our Future State - Part 2

October 23

Dinosaurs: Rewriting the Rules of Fossilization
Dr. Mary Schweitzer, Associate Professor of Paleontology at NC State University and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at NC Museum of Natural Sciences
MP3: Dinosaurs: Rewriting the Rules of Fossilization

September 25

Troubled Bridge Over Water: New research will help detect, avoid bridge collapse
Dr. Sami H. Riskalla, Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering and Construction and Director of the Constructed Facilities Laboratory at NC State University
MP3: Troubled Bridge Over Water

August 28

Summertime Itch: Familiar Pests and New Threats
Dr. Barry Engber, Medical Entomologist in the Public Health, Pest Management Section of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
MP3: Summertime Itch

July 17

Our Runaway Universe: From Dark Matter to Dark Energy
Dr. Richard Hammond, Theoretical physicist Army Research Office and Adjunct Professor in Physics at UNC-Chapel Hill

June 19

Exploring the fascinating world inside the hive: insights into honey bees and beekeeping
David R. Tarpy, PhD, North Carolina State University.

May 15

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker: Searching for Proof in the Choctawhatchee River Basin
Drs. Lewbart and Deresienski on the natural history and recent detection of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

April 17

What can you do to "Build Green"?
Bob Kingery, president of Southern Energy Management
Randall Lanou, Adjunct Associate Professor at NC State University College of Design and founder of BuildSense, Inc.

March 28

CSI Dublin: The Hunt for the Irish Potato Killer
Dr. Jean Beagle Ristaino from the Department of Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University

February 20

Global Warming
Greg Fishel, Chief Meteorologist for WRAL-TV, and Gary Lackmann, associate professor of meteorology in the department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at NC State University

January 16

Richard Field from University of Montana Department of Chemistry

2006 Topics

November 28

Human Space Flight: Return to the Moon and Mission to Mars
Dr. Fred DeJarnette and Dr. Andre Mazzoleni from North Carolina State University Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

October 10

('Tis the Season) The Truth about Bird Flu
Dr. Lori Hudson from the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and the Department of Immunology