The Farrand Memorial Lecture honors the memory of Dr. William R. Farrand, who served as Director of the U-M Exhibit Museum of Natural History for seven years (July 1993-June 2000), as well as his long career as a professor in the U-M Department of Geological Sciences. Past lectures have covered topics such as U-M collections, astronomy, biodiversity, evolution, and climate change.

Counter Culture: The art and science of microbes

William R. Farrand Memorial Lecture
Recorded on March 31, 2023 

The existence of the microbial universe calls us to creativity. Whether harnessing the carbon-capturing power of blue-green algae or compelling society to care about something too small to see, art is often the answer. Join us for a panel discussion on the importance of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) collaborations in understanding and spreading awareness about microbial systems. This Farrand Lecture will bring together three U-M professionals who have captured the magnificence of the microbial world through art and design

Check out the speakers’ partnerships with UMMNH


Unseen Worlds 

With COVID-19, microorganisms have dramatically migrated from natural science and medicine onto center stage in politics, history, and civil society. Through the artistry of Jim Cogswell, microorganisms can be seen in a delightful and colorful expression on the windows at UMMNH.

The Winogradsky Panel

A Winogradsky column is a simple device for culturing microbial communities from soil and mud—essentially, it's a microbial ecosystem in a jar. See the Microbial Masterpiece co-created by Erica Gardner in UMMNH’s Lower Level Lobby.


Algae and the Climate Crisis

Humans have put too much carbon dioxide into the air, causing climate change and issues like extreme weather and algal blooms. Algal blooms are caused by cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae) which thrive on the abundance of carbon dioxide in the air. Cyanobacteria can be extremely harmful to our environment, but they are also extremely efficient at processing carbon dioxide and turning it into energy. Could they hold an answer to some of our climate issues?  See this exhibit “pod” featuring the research of Anthony Vecchiarelli in the People and the Planet exhibit at UMMNH. Funded by the National Science Foundation.



On the Trail of an Ice Age Mastodon

William R. Farrand Memorial Lecture
Recorded on December 1, 2022

Join Daniel C. Fisher, Claude W. Hibbard Collegiate Professor of Paleontology, U-M Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, and Curator, U-M Museum of Paleontology, for the 22nd annual William R. Farrand Memorial Lecture, presented by the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.

Focusing on the life of the Buesching mastodon, represented by the large cast skeleton displayed in the atrium of the U-M Museum of Natural History, On the Trail of an Ice Age Mastodon will reveal the story of one male’s struggles and victories, from adolescence to the mating-season battle that ultimately claimed his life.

Paleontologists seeking to understand the lives of extinct animals often make do with scant clues gleaned from an animal’s skeleton, from its circumstances of preservation, and from its time of death. Reconstructing lost ecosystems is always a challenge, but sometimes we get lucky. At its best, the fossil record provides clear snapshots, or even motion sequences from the past, such as footprints showing how an animal moved. On a larger scale, we can now read records of growth and behavior archived in the mineralized layers of mastodon tusks, allowing us to follow a single animal for years, across entire landscapes. For the first time, we identify seasonal migratory behavior that may have been key to meeting the challenges of reproduction near the end of the Ice Age.


COVID-19 Vaccines: Science Close to Home

William R. Farrand Memorial Lecture
Recorded February 13, 2021

A panel discussion about the science behind COVID-19 vaccines, their likelihood to protect against the more contagious COVID-19 variants, the reasons behind vaccine “hesitancy,” and Michigan Medicine's efforts to build trust with people who are wary of vaccination.

  • Moderator: Charles Wilson, MSW, Community Health Promotion Supervisor, Washtenaw County Health Department
  • Emily T. Martin, Ph.D., molecular epidemiologist and associate professor,  University of Michigan School of Public Health
  • Nina Masters, Ph.D., recently completed a doctoral degree in Epidemiology at the University of Michigan
  • T. Anthony Denton, J.D., M.H.A., Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of Michigan Medicine



Lake Sturgeon: Past, Present, and Future of an Ancient Fish

William R. Farrand Memorial Lecture
Recorded on February 27, 2020

Sturgeon are ancient fishes, tracing their lineage back more than 100 million years. In the Great Lakes system, lake sturgeon are not only the largest indigenous freshwater fishes, they are also important players in complex aquatic food webs. Their remarkable past has given way to a tenuous future as overfishing, habitat loss, and pollution threaten their survival. Today, there is hope in efforts to restore lake sturgeon populations and spawning grounds. 

  • Matt Friedman, Director, U-M Museum of Paleontology and Associate Professor, Earth and Environmental Science
  • Karen Alofs, Assistant Professor, U-M School for Environment and Sustainability
  • Doug Craven, Director, Natural Resources Department, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians