The University of Arizona

Applying Science During a Crisis

By Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment | April 9, 2012

The UA Institute of the Environment and School of Natural Resources and the Environment are sponsoring a public talk by Gary Machlis on April 11.

Gary Machlis
Gary Machlis
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Gary Machlis, science advisor to the director of the National Park Service and co-leader of a scientific group that helps officials prepare for and respond to environmental disasters, will speak at the University of Arizona on April 11.

During his free public talk, "Science during Crisis: Scenario-Building during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill," Machlis will discuss applying science during crises and the role of the Strategic Sciences Group, which was created by the U.S. Department of the Interior to aid in disaster planning, response and recovery.

The talk will be at 4 p.m. in Room 206 of the Communication Building.

"Learning about this kind of science response to unexpected crises is very relevant to UA students and faculty," said Gregg Garfin, deputy director for science translation and outreach at the UA's Institute of the Environment who is also an assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. "Global environmental management is about risk management."

Many UA graduates will work in areas where different kinds of hazards exist, including coastal or marine environments, and a number of UA faculty members advise National Academies of Science panels on issues related to hazards and environmental management, Garfin added.  

Machlis co-leads the Strategic Sciences Group, a specialized team created to develop environmental, economic and social scenarios and provide rapid, interdisciplinary scientific assessments during environmental crises – like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill – that affect America's natural resources. In that spill, nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico over three months, causing extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and local fishing and tourism industries.

A professor of conservation at the University of Idaho, Machlis has written numerous books and scientific papers on issues of conservation, including "The State of the World's Parks," the first systematic study of threats to protected areas around the world.  

He is active in international conservation, and is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas. He has worked on the Giant Panda Project for the World Wildlife Fund in China and has conducted research in the Galápagos Islands, the national parks of Kenya, Eastern Europe and more than 130 national parks in the U.S.

He also served on the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of the President's Commission on Sustainable Development and was instrumental in the development of the nation's Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units Network, which includes 13 federal agencies and more than 200 universities, and served as its national coordinator. He was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010.

His current research includes applying human ecology to conserving national parks, studying the environmental impacts of warfare and its resulting humanitarian crises, advancing science capacity in Haiti after its devastating earthquake and restoring the Gulf of Mexico following the oil spill.

The Institute of the Environment and School of Natural Resources and the Environment are sponsoring the talk.