Hickok Hall


The Science and Politics of Pandemics

Maria Dean, Ben Peterson Professor of Chemistry
Lynda Barrow, Professor of Political Science
October 28 & November 4


Amid the present COVID-19 pandemic, it is useful and important to explore how pandemics provide an opportunity to address a variety of compelling scientific and political questions. This special two-week forum, led jointly by Ben Peterson Professor of Chemistry Maria Dean and Professor of Political Science Lynda Barrow, will examine pandemics past and present from the vantage points of a biochemist and a political scientist. From the 14th-century plague in Europe to
the Ebola outbreaks of the early 21st century to the current COVID-19 moment, epidemics and pandemics offer a unique opportunity to consider a wide variety of significant scientific and political issues that leaders, countries and the international community face during moments of crisis. In the first week’s session, the presenters will define what constitutes a pandemic, which organisms and conditions make pandemics possible and why pandemics are a political as well as a scientific issue.
The second session will discuss specific pandemics, examining in each case the science of the spread and containment as well as the political and public health responses.

The Past, Present and Future of

Daniel Hughes, Assistant Professor of Biology
November 11 & 18


Daniel HughesFrom molecules to biomes, biodiversity represents the cumulative biological diversity that has evolved during Earth’s 4.6-billion-year history. It has been estimated 100 million species call Earth home, but less than 2 million have been named so far. Biodiversity provides the raw material for sustaining life through various ecosystem services, including providing clean water, regulating climate and cycling nutrients. Biodiversity is vital to sustaining ecosystems and human well-being through crop pollination, medicine and recreation. Yet it is declining at a rate faster than any time in history, prompting scientists to work more rapidly to address the consequences of such changes. In this two-week forum, Assistant Professor of Biology Daniel Hughes will offer an overview of biodiversity research, from the origins of conservation biology to the contemporary climate and extinction crises. In the first session, we will define biodiversity, discuss what we know about past changes in biodiversity and examine the current state of global biodiversity. The second presentation will explore case studies from around the globe about how biodiversity changes and the conservation efforts that are rescuing species from the brink. Integrating his own research on biodiversity in Central Africa and eastern Iowa, Dr. Hughes will provide a variety of examples and perspectives about the range of threats to biodiversity and the actions that can be taken to conserve species for future generations.