Ecologist to present public lecture on mountaintop removal mining

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Emily Bernhardt Duke University

An expert in ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry will discuss the impact of mountaintop removal mining on the environment March 22 at Indiana University Bloomington.

Emily Bernhardt of Duke University will deliver the 36th Joan Wood Lecture from 4 to 5 p.m. in Myers Hall, Room 130. Her lecture is titled "The remaking of Appalachian ecosystems by mountaintop removal coal mining."

The talk, hosted by the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology, is free and open to the public.

Over the past several decades, mountaintop removal practices have affected an estimated 10 percent of the Central Appalachian forests, an approximately 800-mile range that encompasses regions such as the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

"The associated impacts of surface coal mining on air, water and wildlife resources in this region have been profound and extend well beyond the permit boundaries of individual mines," Bernhardt said. "This talk will explore a decadelong effort to answer a series of basic questions about the individual and aggregate effects of mountaintop mines on Appalachian rivers and watersheds."

The lecture will also address the connection between environmental research and policy.

"Emily is one of the leading experts on how human impacts like climate change, chemical pollution and land cover change are affecting the way ecosystems work," said Richard Phillips, associate professor in the IU Bloomington Department of Biology. "She's also an exceptionally broad thinker whose willingness to tackle environmental problems that cross disciplinary boundaries have allowed her to become one of the most accomplished biogeochemists of her generation."

Bernhardt's lab conducts research on topics such as soil priming, nanomaterial toxicity, ecosystem development, wetland restoration, stream restoration, urban thermal pollution, saltwater incursion and watershed nitrogen cycling.

She is president of the Society for Freshwater Science and holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University.

Established in 1990, the Joan Wood Lecture Series was created to highlight women in science-related careers and encourage undergraduate women to pursue advanced degrees in science. It is named in honor of IU Bloomington Department of Biology alum and medical geneticist Joan Wood.