‘Communicating Science’ the topic of next URI Vetlesen lecture, Mar. 8

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 1, 2011 – Chris Reddy, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and an expert on oil spills, will take his scientist colleagues to task when he presents a lecture entitled “Communicating Science: Lessons Learned from an Environmental Crisis” at the University of Rhode Island on Mar. 8 at 7:30 p.m.

His presentation, in Edward’s Auditorium on the URI Kingston campus, is part of the University’s Vetlesen lecture series on “The State of the Oceans” in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Graduate School of Oceanography. Sponsored by the URI Harrington School of Communication and Media, the event is free and open to the public.

In his lecture, Reddy will argue that scientists must take greater responsibility for communicating science to the public.

“Academia does great at science, but it is poor at communicating about that science,” said Reddy. “Everybody wants to blame the press, and the media do need to improve, but I think scientists need to improve more. They just don’t speak the same language that the public does, and it’s really important that they do.”

A marine chemist who earned a Ph.D in oceanography from URI, Reddy was awarded an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship in 2006, which teaches scientists to communicate environmental science to the public, media, and policymakers. He presents scientific talks to lay audiences throughout the country and has published more than 20 op-ed articles or editorials on science-based issues in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, and other publications.

Reddy is a marine chemist who has studied several oil spills in the last 15 years, including the 1996 North Cape spill on the Rhode Island coast and the 2003 spill in Buzzard’s Bay. He traveled aboard the URI research vessel Endeavor last summer to study the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where he was the first to report finding a sizeable underwater plume of oil after BP and government officials said that no plume existed.

A native Rhode Islander, Reddy studies the impact of oil spills and other contaminants on coastal ecosystems. He is also beginning to turn his attention to biodiesel by trying to anticipate and analyze how this new fuel might react when it inevitably mixes with water.

The lecture series is sponsored by the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, with individual lectures supported by the URI College of Arts & Sciences, the Harrington School of Communication and Media, and Rhode Island Sea Grant. The series is coordinated by Professors Steven D’Hondt, Arthur Spivack and Judith Swift, and Sunshine Menezes, director of the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting.

The remaining speakers in the series are:

March 29 – Robert Ballard, URI professor of oceanography, on “The Last Great Frontier.”

Apr. 5 – Norbert Wu, independent filmmaker and photographer of the marine environment, on “Exploring the World’s Notable and Threatened Underwater habitats.”

Apr. 12 – Deborah Kelley, professor of marine geology and geophysics at the University of Washington, on “Measuring Change Across the Global Ocean.”

Apr. 26 – Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. senator, on “Steering a Course Toward a National Ocean Policy.”

For more information about the lecture series, visit www.uri.edu/vetlesen or contact the URI Honors Center at 401-874-2381 or debg@uri.edu.