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Climate Solutions: Renewable Energy Storage and Carbon Capture

March 22, 2023

How can renewables such as wind and solar energy produce power for use when the sun isn't shining or the wind ebbs? How can we capture the carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere?

Join Charles McCrory of the U-M Department of Chemistry and David Kwabi of the U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering to discuss new research on renewable energy storage: using renewable electricity to charge batteries and produce chemical fuels like hydrogen that can be used for later energy generation.

We also discuss how renewable energy may be used to mitigate climate change by capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, or converting it into useful products.

Extreme Science! Dark Matter and Dark Energy Research

October 25, 2023

Sometimes scientists must go to the ends of the earth, and even deep underground, to see the unseen! Join us and meet two charismatic researchers from the U-M Department of Physics who do just that.

Bjoern Penning studies dark matter a mile underground in the former Homestake gold mine in Lead, South Dakota, using Lux-Zeplin, the world's most sensitive dark matter experiment. Marcelle Soares-Santos contributed to the construction of the Dark Energy Camera on a mountaintop in Chile, one of the largest telescope cameras in the world, which she now employs to search for gravitational wave-emitting collisions of neutron stars and black holes. Bring your physics questions for this exciting conversation!


Of the Galaxy, and Beyond - Photos from the Webb Telescope

October 26, 2022

The James Webb Space Telescope increases the clarity and resolution of space photography, both within our galaxy and beyond. What do these photos tell us so far and what can we expect in the future? What does it take to put a project like this together?

  • Professor and Chair Ted Bergin from the U-M Department of Astronomy

Mapping Biodiversity Hotspots in Ancient Oceans

November 16, 2022

How does ocean biodiversity change over deep time? Join Matt Friedman, director of the U-M Museum of Paleontology, and Hernán López-Fernández, chair for collections and curator of fishes in the U-M Museum of Zoology. We will discuss how Matt uses old fossil fishes to answer new questions about biodiversity hotspots in ancient oceans. Hernán will help us consider how this research can shed light on the biodiversity changes we see today.

  • Matt Friedman, director of the U-M Museum of Paleontology
  • Hernán López-Fernández, chair for collections and curator of fishes in the U-M Museum of Zoology


DNA, Chromosome Structure, and Health

January 22, 2020

If you stretched the DNA in one human cell all the way out, it would be about two meters long. How does all that DNA fit into one tiny cell? How does the way it is packaged matter for human health? Join Gyorgyi Csankovszki of the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology for a discussion of current research into basic cellular biology and the implications this research may have on human health. This Science Café is part of a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Something Fishy in Lake Michigan

February 19, 2020

Great Lakes fisheries are managed intensively to reduce nutrients from fertilizer runoff and to increase game fish populations such as trout and salmon. When you add invasive species such as non-native mussels and the possibility of carp, we have a very fragile system. Join us to discuss the past, present, and possible futures of Lake Michigan fisheries with Bo Bunnell of the U.S.G.S. Great Lakes Science Center and U-M School for Environment and Sustainability, Yu-Chun Kao of MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, and Ed Rutherford of the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab.


The Secrets of Birds

October 16, 2019

Hidden in the feathers of museum specimens of birds is information on the air quality of past decades - very detailed information. These specimens also contain evidence of the impacts of recent climate change on birds. What do these birds have to say? Join Shane DuBay and Ben Winger of the U-M Museum of Zoology to discuss what bird specimens can tell us about air quality, climate change impacts, and what we can all do to help rapidly declining bird populations now.

What does water sustainability have to do with microbes?

November 20, 2019

Microbes in the water take carbon from the atmosphere, break down plastics, and even cause and prevent toxic algae blooms. Join Dr. Melissa Duhaime of the U-M's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and members of her lab team to discuss the ecology of aquatic microbes, and how what we learn about them now could have huge impacts on our future.


An Archaeology of Migration

January 24, 2018

What are the stories of contemporary Latin American migration, and how do we uncover them? What can these stories tell us about borders, their impact, and the struggles of many families to find a new life? How can such stories inform policy and/or political action?

  • Jason De Leon, U-M Department of Anthropology

Postcards from the Anthropocene

March 21, 2018

Human beings have changed Earth so extensively that geologists now propose renaming our current epoch as the Anthropocene—the time defined by people. Human influences are apparent in the shape of landscapes, the geological record, the extent of biodiversity, ocean chemistry, and our climate. We will explore the history of human influence on Earth and the ideas driving the concept of the Age of Humans, taking time to discuss consequences and implications for our future world.

  • Julia Cole, U-M Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Naomi Levin, U-M Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Designer Genes? Genetic engineering in the age of CRISPR

April 11, 2018

New technology makes gene editing easier. Its use is being explored to correct diseases caused by genetic mutations, to fight cancer, and even to learn about human evolutionary adaptations, and its potential is amazing. We'll explore the capabilities and research that CRISPR Cas9 gene editing brings, as well as its ethical, legal, and social implications.

  • Jody Platt, Assistant Professor in the Department of Learning Health Sciences at the U-M Medical School
  • Daniel Thiel, doctoral student at the U-M School of Public Health and Department of Sociology
  • Thom Saunders, Director of the U-M Transgenic Animal Model Core

You’re the scientist now! Citizen and community science in a connected world

October 17, 2018

Have you ever helped with research by doing a Christmas bird count, helping to identify photos for an online project, or participating in local water testing? Join us as we explore the potential roles of citizen and community science projects in scientific research and public policy. We’ll highlight some U-M projects, with opportunities for involvement. 

  • Nyeema Harris - Applied Wildlife Ecology Lab (U-M Ann Arbor)
  • Marty Kaufman -  Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment (U-M Flint); 
  • Natalie Sampson - Department of Health & Human Services (U-M Dearborn)
  • Justin Schell - Shapiro Design Lab (U-M Ann Arbor Library)

Cyanobacteria: Toxic tide or treasure?

November 14, 2018

You've probably heard of the harmful "algal" blooms in Lake Erie. These are caused by cyanobacteria (the organisms formerly known as blue-green algae), which grow in nutrient-rich water, often overpopulating due to fertilizer run-off. But did you know that cyanobacteria also absorb CO2 and that researchers are studying whether they might affect, or even mitigate, global warming? Learn about water quality and the carbon cycle, and discuss the possible policy implications. 

  • Vincent Denef of the University of Michigan's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Anthony Vecchiarelli of the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology


Politics and Psychology from Mussolini to the Alt-Right

January 25, 2017

A discussion of the history and social psychology of nationalist and fascist politics and what light this scholarship may or may not shed on current events. 

  • Joshua Rabinowitz, lecturer, U-M Psychology Department
  • Dario Gaggio, professor, U-M History Department

Ancient Climates, Future Climates–What Can the Deep Past Tell Us?

February 22, 2017

A discussion on how the Earth's climate has changed many times, and the mechanisms of these changes may shed light on what we can expect in the future.  

  • Chris Poulsen, Professor and Chair of Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Nathan Sheldon, Associate Professor Earth and Environmental Sciences, Associate Director of the Program in the Environment

Can Nutrition, Stress, and Environmental Exposures Change Your DNA? 

March 22, 2017

A discussion on the biological effects of past nutrition, stress, and toxicant exposures on our health and well-being. Are these changes heritable? Can diet and exercise protect our DNA?

  • Kelly Bakulski of the U-M School of Public Health
  • Dana Dolinoy of the U-M School of Public Health
  • Srijan Sen of the Department of Psychiatry at Michigan Medicine

Safeguarding Science: Expanding Access to Public Data

April 12, 2017

A discussion with U-M faculty and librarians participating in the national DataRefuge project, which looks to preserve, organize, and increase access to publicly-funded research data.

  • Jake Carlson, Research Data Services Manager, U-M Library
  • Paul Edwards, Professor of Information, School of Information and Professor of History, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
  • Catherine Morse, Government Information, Law and Political Science Librarian
  • Justin Schell, Director, Shapiro Design Lab, U-M Library

Oil and Soil: The Forces of Climate Change

October 4, 2017

A discussion on the politics of oil, water, and food production and how they are deeply intertwined with human-caused climate change and political upheaval, especially in the Middle East.  

  • Jennifer Blesh, Assistant Professor of Environment and Sustainability, U-M School for Environment and Sustainability
  • Juan Cole, Professor of History and Director for U-M Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies

What Cost, Basic Research? 

November 8, 2017

Basic science research seeks to improve our understanding of the world, without any direct, obvious application. Much of it is funded by government grants, including those from the National Science Foundation.  That funding may soon face cuts. A discussion on how much we spend on such research, what the rationale is, and what the implications of such cuts might be.  

  • Meghan Duffy, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Kristin Koutmou, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry

Lecture - The Human Era: Living in the Anthropocene

September 28, 2017

Today's geologic era—the Anthropocene—is dominated by human activity. In this talk, Ben van der Pluijm explored the impacts of a growing human population and our increasing needs for resources, such as food, water and energy, and solutions toward a thriving human society in this new era.

  • Ben van der Pluijm, B.R. Clark Collegiate Professor, U-M Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences


A Mammoth Find

January 27, 2016

In the fall of 2015, a farmer near Chelsea discovered part of a mammoth skeleton and donated it to U-M.  U-M scientists discussed the excavation and early research on the Bristle Mammoth -- named for Jim and Melody Bristle on whose land it was found.

  • Professor Daniel C. Fisher, Director of the U-M Museum of Paleontology
  • Adam Rountrey, Collection Manager for Vertebrate Fossils, U-M Museum of Paleontology

Has Particle Physics Fizzled?

November 16, 2016

In 2012, physicists at large particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) found evidence of the Higgs boson, long predicted by the Standard Model in physics. But since then, they have yet to find evidence of other predicted particles.

  • Dante Amidei, U-M Professor of Physics 
  • Aaron Pierce, U-M Professor of Physics and Director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics