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The Charles Bullard Lectures Series

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This annual distinguished lecture series focuses on forests and climate change, and is named after the gift that has, since 1962, brought scholars working on forests to Harvard. The goal of the Bullard Lectures is to celebrate and amplify ecologists who have significantly advanced our understanding of the terrestrial biosphere while also serving society through application of their science and mentoring.

The Lectures are supported by the Charles Bullard endowment and are closely associated with Harvard’s long-running Bullard Fellowship, a distinguished scholar-in-residence program for forest research. Hosted in partnership with the Harvard University Center for the Environment at the Salata Institute.

2024 Bullard Lecturer: Yadvinder Mahli

Tropical Forests and Planet Earth: A Macrosope ViewImage shows Yadvinder Mahli.

October 3, 2024 | Cambridge

The twin key environmental challenges of our times are to stabilise our climate system and reverse the decline of biodiversity. Tropical forests play an important role in addressing both these challenges. I explore what role tropical forests play in the Earth System and the interaction between tropical forests and climate change, highlighting some of my team’s recent research that combines detailed field data collection with satellite remote sensing. Field work and observations remain an essential component of understanding and stewarding our changing biosphere. 

Captured sunshine: an energetic view of terrestrial ecosystems

October 4, 2024 | Harvard Forest (Petersham) and Zoom

The biosphere was first described as “a planetary membrane for capturing, storing and transforming solar energy” by Vernadsky in the early 20th century. Every living organism and organism function in the biosphere is united, and can be compared, by the cascade of captured sunshine that powers it. But beyond powerful imagery, can an energetics approach to ecosystems yield a practical contribution to understanding how increasing human pressure is altering ecological function, and be a tool for assessing effectiveness of nature recovery? This talk explores this potential with a focus on plants, birds and mammals, the best documented taxonomic groups, in the context of terrestrial ecosystems. I draw on examples from Wytham Woods, intact and logged tropical forests in Borneo, and a broad regional examination of sub-Saharan Africa. An energetic approach to understanding life an earth can yield some surprising and provocative insights into our changing biosphere.

Registration information will be posted here when it becomes available.

Past lectures

In October 2023, Dr. Chris Field, the Perry L. McCarty Director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies at Stanford University, presented two lectures regarding his research. Recordings are available for Managing the Risk of Climate Overshoot and The Changing Landscape of Western Wildfire Risk . Learn about his talk at Harvard Forest in the Harvard Crimson

Image shows Dr. Susan Trumbore presenting at Harvard ForestOur inaugural Bullard Lecturer was Dr. Susan Trumbore, Director and Scientific Member at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry & Professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Trumbore presented two talks entitled What is the future of Amazon Forests? and Radiocarbon constraints for the terrestrial carbon cycle.