Faculty share breadth of expertise during science writers conference

Fossil Creek

Caves on Mars, human compassion, the fight against bioweapons and cataclysmic volcanic eruptions—subjects that rarely end up on the same agenda—were deliberated along with many more topics of interest when researchers and journalists from around the nation met over the weekend in Flagstaff.

More than 300 science writers visited Northern Arizona University to attend the New Horizons in Science Briefing and the National Association of Science Writers annual conference that began Friday at the High Country Conference Center.

The conference featured more than 90 presenters and covered a wide array of subjects, including the following by NAU faculty members:

Jeffrey Foster, research assistant professor in the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics, and Paul Keim, the center’s director, Cowden Endowed Chair and
Regents Professor of biology, presented “BioHunters: How Genomic Analysis is Aiding the Fight Against Bioweapons, Global Epidemics and Deadly Food Contaminants.”

Peter Friederici, assistant professor in the School of Communication, Kurt Lancaster, associate professor in the School of Communication, and Wes Pope, lecturer in photojournalism and documentary studies, presented a preconference workshop, “Video for the Web.”

Friederici also organized the preconference workshop, “Audio Storytelling,” with Mark Neumann, professor of communication and documentary studies, and Katie Szrom, instructor in the School of Communication.

Jane Marks, associate professor of biological sciences, presented “Restoration Ecology: Guiding the Destruction of a Century-Old Dam in Arizona.”

Michael Ort, professor of geology, presented “Reconstructing an Ancient Cataclysmic Event: The Sunset Crater Eruption.”

Thomas Sisk, the Olajos-Goslow Endowed Chair and professor in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, presented  “Reconciling Ranching and Conservation on Public Lands—Is It Possible?”

Miguel Vasquez, professor of anthropology, presented “Applied Anthropology: Using Research Tools to Help Transmit Native American and Latino Culture to a New Generation.”

Heidi Wayment, professor of psychology, presented “The ‘Quiet Ego:’ Empirical Evidence for the Value of Compassion.”

J. Judson (Jut) Wynne, cave research scientist with Merriam Powell Center for Environmental Research, presented “New Caves, New Species, New Genera—and Caves on Mars.”

The conference wraps up today with attendees participating in field trips guided by NAU researchers to sites related to wind energy, forest restoration and management of the Colorado River.