The University of Arizona

UA Reps Work With Community Members to Bring Science Authors to TFOB

By Shelley Shelton, University Communications | March 7, 2012

It took nearly a year of planning, and a lot of rejection, but the hard work pays off this weekend.

Carl Zimmer, author of
Carl Zimmer, author of "Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed," will appear on a panel called "The Best American Science Writing."
Capt. Charles Moore, who has done much to alert people to the prevalence of plastic in oceans, will speak on the panel
Capt. Charles Moore, who has done much to alert people to the prevalence of plastic in oceans, will speak on the panel "Our Troubled Oceans: The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea."

It can take a village to create a Science City.

While the Tucson Festival of Books has always featured a science pavilion, this year it has expanded its science offerings into a full-fledged "Science City" taking up much of the east end of the UA Mall, between Cherry and Campbell avenues.

Contributing to the science effort was a committee of mostly UA community members working with a handful of people from outside the University to bring some of the most interesting voices in science to campus during the festival.

Co-chaired by Daphne Gilman, director of strategic alliances for the UA's BIO5 Institute, and Jim Cornell, president of the International Science Writers Association, the 2012 Science and Health Authors Committee began meeting in May.

The committee consisted of a UANews science writer, a UA graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology, two BIO5 student employees, a retired UA Human Resources employee and representatives from the UA Viper Institute and the Institute on Science for Global Policy, as well as Tucson community members, including the "Mrs. Green" spokeswoman for Tucson Electric Power Co. and a representative from Canyon Ranch health resort. 

Science and health are an important focus for the festival, given the enthusiasm for science in Tucson, Gilman said.

The Tucson Festival of Books is in its fourth year and will take place from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. both days this weekend, March 10-11, on the UA Mall and in several campus buildings.

"My co-chair, Jim Cornell, and I were fortunate to attract a diverse committee, made up of community members, UA appointed professionals, grad students and undergrads, and ranging in life experience from really young to really well-seasoned," Gilman said. "These are creative and resourceful people willing to endure a bit of a learning curve – how to find authors on Twitter? how to convince authors to travel to the festival at their own expense? – and a fair amount of rejection in order to bring great writers to Tucson."

The group's goal was to dream big on behalf of everyone in Tucson who likes a good book about science or health, she said.

"Who are the top writers we should invite? The first writer on my wish list was Carl Zimmer, who wrote, among many fine books, essays and articles, the irresistibly titled 'Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed,' " Gilman said.

She got her wish. Zimmer is speaking at 1 p.m. Sunday on a panel titled "The Best American Science Writing," moderated by Cornell in Room 350 of the Modern Languages building.

The committee met every few weeks, extending invitations to authors over the summer so the festival could begin promoting their appearances as soon as possible.

"At first, it can be very discouraging. Our wish lists dwindle as favorite authors say no one after the other, usually due to other commitments. But when we get a yes, it's so exciting," Gilman said.

Committee members also created themes for panels.

Grad student Deborah Shelton, who studies ecology and evolutionary biology, had an idea for a discussion on human cooperation that turned into a panel called "Us vs. Them: Insights Into Human Nature," scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the Kuiper Space Sciences auditorium. It will feature leading researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Chicago as well as moderator Martin Dufwenberg, a UA professor of economics.

"I am so excited about bringing people together with diverse backgrounds – economics, philosophy, biology, anthropology – for this discussion," Shelton said. "My interest in human cooperation stems from a concern for environmental issues and the unique challenges of the large-scale, international cooperation needed to address such issues."

Shelton said she's also excited to see Charles Moore, a ship's captain who has done much to alert people to the prevalence of plastic trash in the oceans. He will be part of a panel, "Our Troubled Oceans: The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea," that begins at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Modern Languages Room 350.

The full committee included:

  • Co-chairs Daphne Gilman and Jim Cornell
  • Gina Murphy-Darling, radio show host and "Mrs. Green" spokeswoman for TEP
  • Daniel Stolte, UANews science writer
  • Deborah Shelton, graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Megan Sentianin, Eller College of Management undergraduate student, BIO5 student employee
  • Vanessa Dojaquez, Social and Behavioral Sciences undergraduate student, BIO5 student employee
  • Shirley Loose, Canyon Ranch
  • Jody Mallie, assistant director of research for the Viper Institute
  • Jennifer Boice, program administrator, Institute for Global Science Policy
  • Linda Heffernan, retired, UA Human Resources

For a complete listing of the festival's science-related events, including the science author panels, visit the Tucson Festival of Books events search page and select Science/Health in the dropdown menu for genre. Be sure to also select which day you're interested in, Saturday or Sunday.

A complete festival guide is available here.