Skip to main content

Speaker Biographies - Fall 2021

Wade Davis


Wade Davis is a writer and photographer whose work has taken him from the Amazon to Tibet, Africa to Australia, Polynesia to the Arctic. Having served as Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society from 2000 to 2013, he is currently Professor of Anthropology and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. The author of 23 books, including The Wayfinders, One River, and Into the Silence. Davis holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. In 2016, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. In 2018 he became an Honorary Citizen of Colombia. His latest book is Magdalena: River of Dreams (Knopf 2020).

Named by the National Geographic Society as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, Dr. Davis has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” Early in his career, mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, living among fifteen indigenous groups in eight Latin American nations while making some 6000 botanical collections. His continuing work took him to Haiti to investigate folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies, an assignment that led to his writing Passage of Darkness (1988) and The Serpent and the Rainbow (1986), an international best seller later released by Universal as a motion picture. In recent years his work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, Vanuatu, Mongolia and the high Arctic of Nunuvut and Greenland.

His other books include Penan: Voice for the Borneo Rain Forest (1990), Shadows in the Sun (1993), Nomads of the Dawn (1995), which was nominated for the 1997 Governor General's Literary Award for Nonfiction, The Clouded Leopard (1998), Rainforest (1998), Light at the Edge of the World (2001), The Lost Amazon (2004), Grand Canyon (2008), Book of Peoples of the World (ed. 2008), The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena and Nass (2011) and River Notes: A Natural and Human History of the Colorado (2012). His books have been translated into sixteen languages, including French, Italian, German, Norwegian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Dutch, Basque, Macedonian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Korean, Bulgarian, Japanese and Malay, and have sold approximately a million copies worldwide.

The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World
Every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive? Wade Davis leads us on a thrilling journey to celebrate the wisdom of the world’s indigenous cultures. In Polynesia we set sail with navigators whose ancestors settled the Pacific ten centuries before Christ. In the Amazon we meet the descendants of a true Lost Civilization, the Peoples of the Anaconda. In the Andes we discover that the Earth really is alive, while in the far reaches of Australia we experience Dreamtime, the all-embracing philosophy of the first humans to walk out of Africa. We then travel to Nepal, where we encounter a wisdom hero, a Bodhisattva, who emerges from forty-five years of Buddhist retreat and solitude. And finally, we settle in Borneo, where the last rainforest nomads struggle to survive.

Understanding the lessons of this journey will be our mission for the next century. Of the world’s 7000 languages, fully half may disappear within our lifetimes. At risk is a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination that is the human legacy. Rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit, as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our time.


YouTube link:


Randolph Neese


Randolph M. Nesse is Research Professor of Life Sciences and the Founding Director (2014-2019) of The Center for Evolution and Medicine at Arizona State University, and Professor Emeritus, Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology and the Institute for Social Research at The University of Michigan. He was the initial organizer and second president of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society and was the Founding President of The International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health. Dr. Nesse is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Sciences, and an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Randolph Nesse’s research on the evolution of aging led to a long collaboration with the evolutionary biologist George C. Williams. Their co-authored book, Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine, inspired fast growth of the field of evolutionary medicine. His subsequent research has focused on how natural selection shapes mechanisms that regulate pain, fever, anxiety, low mood, and why emotional disorders are so common. He also has written extensively about the evolutionary origins of moral emotions and strategies for establishing evolutionary biology as a basic science for medicine.

His latest book, Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry, applies the principles of evolutionary medicine to mental disorders. Hailed by The Economist as one of the “Books of the Year,” Good Reasons for Bad Feelings has received much critical praise: “This is a wise, accessible, highly readable exploration of an issue that goes to the heart of human existence” (Robert Sapolsky, Stanford University); “A bold book that would have made Darwin proud. Cutting-edge and compassionate at the same time” (Lee Dugatkin, University of Louisville, and three-time EKU Chautauqua lecturer); “I do fully expect that someday nearly all psychiatry will be identified as evolutionary psychiatry. If so, Randolph Nesse’s book should be seen as the field’s founding document” (David Barash, The Wall Street Journal).

YouTube link:


Cristobal Salinas, Jr.


Cristóbal Salinas, Jr. is Associate Professor in the Educational Leadership and Research Methodology Department at Florida Atlantic University. His research promotes access and equality in higher education and explores the social and political context of education opportunities for historically marginalized communities. Dr. Salinas is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief for the Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity, published in partnership with the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE). He has published 22 peer-reviewed articles and 27 book chapters and co-edited 5 collections, including most recently, Studying Latinx/a/o Students in Higher Education: A Critical Analysis of Concepts, Theory and Methodologies (Routledge, 2021). He has received over 25 national and international awards for his commitment to social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. His research has been featured in CNN, NPR, Telemundo and Good Morning America.

After earning his B.A. in Spanish Education and ESL from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Dr. Salinas went on to complete his Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies and the Ph.D. in Higher Education, both at Iowa State University.

Video link (In EKU Libraries):


Stephen Apkon


Stephen Apkon is the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens, and the Founder and Executive Director of The Jacob Burns Film Center, a non-profit film and education organization located in Pleasantville, N.Y. The JBFC presents a wide array of documentary, independent and foreign film programs in a three-theater state-of-the-art film complex and has developed educational programs focused on 21st century literacy. Since its doors opened in 2001, JBFC education programs have reached over 100,000 children, and under Steve’s leadership, the JBFC inaugurated a 27,000 square foot Media Arts Lab in 2009.

In The Age of the Image, Apkon draws on the history of literacy, on the science of how storytelling works on the human brain, and on the value of literacy in real-world situations, and argues that now is the time to transform the way we teach, create, and communicate so that we can all step forward together into a rich and stimulating future. Legendary director Martin Scorsese writes in the Foreword to the book. “The Age of the Image lays out the tools we need to cultivate our awareness of and attention to every message and every gesture, artistic or opportunistic, expressed in print or in pixels. It's not just a plea for literacy, but a wonderful road map and guide for how it can be taught and nurtured.”

Apkon’s recent work as Director, Producer and Executive Producer includes the documentary films, Fantastic Fungi, Backyard Wilderness and Disturbing the Peace. Steve serves on the boards of The World Cinema Foundation and Advancing Human Rights. He is President of Big 20 Productions; the director and producer of The Patron, a collaboration with Ido Haar; a producer of Enlistment Days, directed by Ido Haar; and a producer of I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful directed by Jonathan Demme.


Dr. Margaret "Meg" Lowman


Dr. Margaret “Meg” Lowman, known affectionately throughout the world as “Canopy Meg,” is a global pioneer in forest canopy ecology. She is one of the world’s foremost “arbornauts” — someone who explores and studies the vast forest canopies that make up what Meg has termed the Earth’s “eighth continent.” A tireless educator, strong advocate for girls, women and minorities in science, Meg has published numerous books, is a sustainability advisor, contributes to boards and speaks widely and frequently to diverse groups, schools and international symposia and conferences. Meg describes her passion for the treetops: “Saving trees and all that lives in them. What causes me to leap out of bed each morning is the opportunity to explore, research and conserve global forests; to mentor the next generation (especially women and minorities) in sustainability and forest stewardship; and to educate diverse audiences through storytelling.”

Meg is the author, co-author and editor of nine books and over 150 scientific publications, including the major forest canopy textbooks, Forest Canopies and Methods in Forest Canopy Research as well as field reports such as Life in the Treetops and It’s a Jungle Out There. Her much-anticipated, brand new memoir, The Arbornaut (published August 10, 2021 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux) details her adventures over a lifetime spent exploring the eighth continent of the treetops of forests across nearly all the continents. Nicknamed the “Real-Life Lorax” by National Geographic, in The Arbornaut Canopy Meg takes us on an adventure into the “eighth continent” of the world's treetops, along her journey as a tree scientist, and into climate action.

Lowman is well-known across the globe as an inspiring, motivating, fun, and educational speaker. Her superpower as a speaker is found in her humorous, lively storytelling and in her ability to make complex science and conservation ideas easily understandable to a wide variety of audiences. She has been a prolific writer and speaker over the course of a career committed to building and sharing knowledge of the importance of the biodiversity in the canopies around the world and the critical need to conserve them. Whether in person or virtually, Meg connects to audiences across what she calls the “K through Gray” spectrum — meaning just about everyone.

Meg Lowman’s academic training includes a BA in Biology from Williams College, a Master of Science from Aberdeen University and a Ph.D. in Botany from Sydney University. In addition, she completed the Executive Management Program at the Tuck School of Business and the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program at Stanford, and she was selected as a Fulbright Senior Specialist Scholar for both India and Ethiopia.


Leanne B. Simpson


Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist, who has been widely recognized as one of the most compelling Indigenous voices of her generation. Her work breaks open the intersections between politics,  story and song—bringing audiences into a rich and layered world of sound, light and sovereign creativity. Working for two decades as an independent scholar using Nishnaabeg intellectual practices, Leanne has lectured and taught extensively at universities across Canada and the United States and has twenty years experience with Indigenous land based education. She holds a PhD from the University of Manitoba and teaches at the Dechinta Centre for Research & Learning in Denendeh.

Leanne is the author of seven books, including her new novel Noopiming (Minnesota University Press, 2021), which was named a best book of the year by the Globe and Mail. This Accident of Being Lost  won the MacEwan University Book of the Year; was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Trillium Book Award; was long listed for CBC Canada Reads; and was named a best book of the year by the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and Quill & Quire.  As We Have Always Done:  Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance was awarded Best Subsequent Book by the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.  A Short History of the Blockade: Giant Beavers, Diplomacy and Regeneration in Nishnaabewin was published by University of Alberta Press in February 2021, and her new project, a collaboration with Robyn Maynard, Rehearsals for Living, is forthcoming from Knopf Canada in 2022. Leanne’s new critically acclaimed and Polaris Prize short-listed album, Theory of Ice, was released by You’ve Changed Records in March 2021.

In this presentation, award-winning writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson uses Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg stories, storytelling aesthetics, and practices to explore the generative nature of Indigenous blockades through our relative, the beaver—or in Nishnaabemowin, Amik. Moving through genres, shifting through time, amikwag stories become a lens for the life-giving possibilities of dams and the world-building possibilities of blockades, deepening our understanding of Indigenous resistance as both a negation and an affirmation.

Streaming Link:

Open /*deleted href=#openmobile*/