Air quality and Ecology: Science and Policy in the Last Few Thousand Years

September 26, 2018 - 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Manuel Lerdau, Professor of Environmental Sciences and of Biology, University of Virginia

Air pollution was one of the first recognized environmental threats to humans, and scholars since classical times have understood that plants play a key role in modulating air quality and human health.  This talk takes an explicitly historical view of human understanding of air quality, health, and the biological environment.  From the middle of the last century to the present, natural science studies on plants and the atmosphere have informed legislative efforts to improve air quality, and practical questions regarding air pollution control have helped shape scientific investigations.  Most recently, tropospheric ozone has emerged as the critical air quality issue of the 21st century.  Current challenges and opportunities involving this dialectical relationship between science and policy include extending our understanding into parts of the world with a more recent tradition of environmental research and legislation.  The talk closes with a discussion of these challenges/opportunities in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

About the Speaker: Manuel Lerdau received his doctoral degree from Stanford University in Biology and then worked as an NRC Post-Doc in Chemistry at NASA Ames.  He spent 12 years in the Ecology and Evolution Department at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, with a joint appointment with Atmospheric Sciences.  In 2007 he moved to the Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Virginia, with a joint appointment with Biology.  He has been the Hrdy Visiting Professor at Harvard University, a Senior International Scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a Kavli Fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and an AAAS Climate Science Fellow.  He has conducted field research in Asia, Latin America, and North America.  His research interests currently fall in two main areas: 1) the intersection of ecology, atmospheric chemistry, and climate change in terrestrial systems; and 2) photosynthesis, plant growth, and sustainable food production.   

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  • Global Asia Initiative