Speaker Information

Submitted by dahlonegascience on Sat, 03/03/2018 - 21:59

Guest Authors:



James  Costa:  Jim Costa is executive director of the Highlands Biological Station and professor of biology at Western Carolina University, where he teaches courses on biogeography, evolution, and Darwin. He is a long-time Research Associate in Entomology at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, and a former fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Jim lectures widely in the US and abroad, and is currently serving as a Sigma Xi distinguished lecturer and a trustee of the Charles Darwin Trust. The author of numerous papers and the books Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species; On the Organic Law of Change; and The Annotated Origin (all Harvard University Press), Jim was awarded the silver Wallace Medal from the London-based Alfred Russel Wallace Memorial Fund in 2017 for his contributions to Wallace scholarship. His latest book, Darwin's Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory (W. W. Norton) was a finalist for the 2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. Jim lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with his wife Leslie and sons Addison and Eli.



Les Johnson:  Les Johnson is a physicist, an author, and the Principal Investigator for the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout solar sail mission at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  He is an author of several popular science books including “Solar Sails: A Novel Approach to Interplanetary Travel” [featured in Nature, April 2008] and his latest, “Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World” [reviewed in Nature January 2018].  He is also a science fiction writer; his fourth novel, “Mission to Methone,” was published in February 2018 by Baen Books.  Les was the NASA co-investigator on the European Union’s InflateSail solar sail mission and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s T-Rex tether mission.  During his career at NASA, he served as the Manager for the Space Science Programs and Projects Office, the In-Space Propulsion Technology Program, and the Interstellar Propulsion Research Project.  He thrice received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal and has 3 patents.  Les earned his M.S. in physics from Vanderbilt University in 1986 and his B.A. from Transylvania University in 1984.   Les was the featured ‘interstellar explorer in the January 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine. 


Anthony Martin:  Following up on an early affinity to natural history, Anthony (Tony) Martin combined interests in biology and geology to earn a B.S. degree in geobiology from St. Joseph’s College (Indiana), an M.S. in geology from Miami University (Ohio), and a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Georgia. Although trained mostly as a geologist and paleontologist, his research emphasis is in ichnology, the study of modern and fossil traces. In his research, Martin’s fossil discoveries or co-discoveries include: the only known burrowing dinosaur; the oldest dinosaur burrows in the geologic record; the oldest fossil crayfish in the Southern Hemisphere; the oldest bird tracks in Australia; and the best assemblage of polar dinosaur tracks in the Southern Hemisphere. Martin is the author of Life Traces of the Georgia Coast (Indiana University Press), Dinosaurs Without Bones (Pegasus Books), and his latest book, The Evolution Underground (Pegasus Books). Martin also does much outreach on ichnology and paleontology through public speaking and his blog, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast, and is active on Twitter as @Ichnologist. In 2015, in recognition of his significant contributions to research, teaching, and public service, he was elected as a Fellow in The Explorers Club and a Fellow in the Geological Society of America.


Joseph Meany:  Joseph E. Meany, Ph.D., (a.k.a. the Crimson Alkemist) is a chemist from Atlanta, GA. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Alabama in 2016 and continues to work and volunteer in various science communication venues with a focus on how chemistry and nanotechnology impact society. He is a member and contributor to the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop in Oak Ridge, TN and maintains an active interest in nanotechnology applications in aerospace. His first book, with co-author Les Johnson, called Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin and Superversatile Material that will Revolutionize the World was released in February 2018 by Prometheus Books. You can find it at tiny.cc/graphenebook.

Guest Speakers:



Scott Harris:  Scott Harris is the planetary geologist at the Fernbank Science Center and Jim Cherry Memorial Planetarium in Atlanta. A Georgia native, he was educated at Arizona State University, the University of Georgia, and Brown University. A world traveler, field geologist, petrologist, and science educator, he has spent most of his 25-year academic and research career studying the record of asteroid impacts on Earth. He also studies extraterrestrial volcanism and the ancient history of our solar system preserved in meteorites. A Goldwater Scholar, Circumnavigators Foundation Fellow, and NASA Space Grant Fellow, he is the author or co-author of more than a dozen peer-reviewed articles and field guides and one hundred conference papers. He also has served as a visiting lecturer of mineralogy at Georgia State University and as the geologist for the Georgia Department of Transportation, where he received the 2013 Commissioner’s Achievement Award.  


Jessica Hartel:  

Jessica Hartel, Ph.D., is a primatologist in the Biology Department at the University of North Georgia and is also the Director of Conservation for the Kibale Chimpanzee Project in Kibale National Park, Uganda. She received her B.S. in both Biology and Anthropology from Missouri State University, M.S. in Experimental Psychology from Central Washington University, Ph.D. in Integrative and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Southern California, and was a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Biocultural History at Aarhus University in Denmark. Her current research focuses on the human-chimpanzee conflict and how to effectively mitigate intensifying anthropogenic threats to wild chimpanzees. She specializes in chimpanzee behavioral ecology to better understand how their behavior can impact community cohesion, aggression mitigation, social relationships, and survivability in an increasing anthropogenic landscape. As an active advocate for chimpanzee welfare both in the wild and in captivity, Jessica uses her voice to speak for those without to work towards policy changes that treat chimpanzees and other animals as persons instead of property. Past work at chimpanzee sanctuaries include retiring chimpanzees from biomedical research to a new sanctuary in Blue Ridge, GA and working with chimpanzees that use American Sign Language. 



Jennifer Mook is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of North Georgia – Gainesville. She received her BS in Biology at Penn State University where she was involved in student research on stone flies, zebra mussels, and biodegradation of hydrocarbons by fungi. After a year off and volunteering with a wildlife rehabilitator, she decided to fly south to Clemson to escape the snow belt and to delve into a MS program involving genetic research on tortoises. Since working with tortoises was not enough, she also got involved in a sperm physiology research project that ultimately led to her PhD from Clemson and used her molecular skills to help with the international peach genome sequencing project. During this time she also worked at the Greenville Zoo, and that is ultimately where she acquired her current 140 lb pet tortoise. She moved to Virginia for a post-doc researcher position on semen storage and motility, but quickly returned back south to Gainesville. She also returned to her love of turtles in research. She is currently involved in research studying box turtle habitat use and phenotypic variation in musk turtles.



Bryson Payne:  Dr. Bryson Payne is the founding Director of the Center for Cyber Operations Education at the University of North Georgia, an NSA Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. He is also a tenured professor of computer science at UNG, where he has taught aspiring cyber professionals since 1998. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP®) and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), among other industry certifications. Featured in CIO magazine, Campus Technology, and the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Payne is the best-selling author of Teach Your Kids to Code: A Parent-Friendly Guide to Python Programming (2015). He holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Georgia State University and has published articles in scholarly and trade journals, in addition to speaking regularly at national and international conferences on computer science and cybersecurity education.


Chris Seminack: Chris Seminack is an Assistant Professor of Geology at the University of North Georgia in the Lewis F. Rogers Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis. He earned his B.A. from La Salle University, M.S. from Temple University, Ph.D. from George Mason University, and was a postdoctoral scholar with the National Park Service at Assateague Island National Seashore. He specializes in coastal geology along the U.S. Atlantic coast, studying the effects of intense storms, tidal inlet life-cycles, and barrier island evolution.