The Biology of Climate Change
with Thor Hanson, author and biologist
Polar bears on shrinking icebergs are a potent symbol of climate change biology, but anyone who spends time in nature knows that there is a lot more to the story. In this plenary, author and biologist Thor Hanson explores the fraught and fascinating ways that species are responding to the climate crisis. Drawing on current science and stories from his latest book, Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid, Hanson shows how plants and animals are moving, adapting, and even evolving in real time, and how the sum of their reactions will determine the future.
Thor Hanson was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where he now lives on an island with his wife and son. He caught his first salmon at age four, and often collected a wide array of temporary summertime pets, from caterpillars and tadpoles to garter snakes, hermit crabs, and tree frogs. His early interest in the natural world steered him towards a career in conservation biology. Hanson received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands, his master’s from the UVM’s Field Naturalist Program, and his doctorate in a joint program through the University of Idaho and the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, Costa Rica.
Hanson’s research and conservation activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures. He served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda, where he helped establish the mountain gorilla tourism program in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and he has also helped manage a brown bear tourism project for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska. He often works at the interface between natural and human systems, and has conducted research on habitat fragmentation, endangered species, and the ecological impacts of warfare.
Hanson is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Switzer Environmental Fellow, and a sought-after public speaker and media figure. He co-hosted the PBS Nature series American Spring Live, and has appeared as a guest on programs ranging from Fresh Air to On Point, Science Friday, To the Best of Our Knowledge, The Splendid Table, The Current (CBC), Naked Scientists (BBC), WIRED Currents, Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda, and Book Lust with Nancy Pearl.
Hanson is the author of Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid, Buzz, The Triumph of Seeds, Feathers, and The Impenetrable Forest, as well as the illustrated children’s favorite, Bartholomew Quill. Honors for his books have included The John Burroughs Medal, The Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize, and three Pacific Northwest Book Awards, and his writing has been translated into a dozen languages. Hanson’s academic work includes co-editorship of the volume Warfare Ecology, as well as dozens of papers in such journals as BioScience, Conservation Biology, Environmental Conservation, Neotropical Ornithology, Neotropical Primates, and Molecular Ecology. His popular articles and essays have appeared in publications ranging from Audubon and Orion to The Wall Street Journal, The Times of London, The Guardian, BBC Wildlife, and The Huffington Post.