Plenary 4: Environmental Changes Driving Environmental Disasters

Natural disasters do not just happen; they are the culmination of environmental changes across the globe. This session will review the environmental changes that are causing the natural disasters we see today, such as floods, tornados, and drought.


Juliet Eilperin: As The Washington Post's national environmental reporter, Ms. Eilperin has covered issues ranging from climate change to the 2008 presidential campaign for the Post.  In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010, she wrote several investigative pieces exposing the lack of federal oversight over offshore drilling.  Her environmental reporting assignments have entailed trekking on the Arctic tundra with Selma Hayek and Jake Gyllenhaal and searching on her hands and knees for rare insects in the caves of Tennessee. Ms. Eilperin has received numerous environmental fellowships and honors, including the 2011 Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Media.  She is the author of "Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship is Poisoning the House of Representatives," and "Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks."

Confirmed Speakers:

Gary Machlis: Dr. Gary E. Machlis is Science Advisor to the Director, National Park Service, and Professor of Conservation at the University of Idaho. He is the first scientist appointed to this position with the NPS, and advises the director on a range of science policy issues and programs. Dr. Machlis has served as Interim Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Idaho, and been a visiting professor at Nanjing Technological College in China and at Yale University. Dr. Machlis received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Washington in Seattle, and his Ph.D. in human ecology from Yale. He has written numerous books and scientific papers on issues of conservation, including The State of the World's Parks (1985), the first systematic study of threats to protected areas around the world. He is currently at work on his next co-authored book, The Structure and Dynamics of Human Ecosystems, to be published by Yale University Press in 2012. His research has been published in journals as varied as Bioscience, Climatic Change, Conservation Biology, Society and Natural Resources, and Science.

Dr. Machlis has received the Burlington Northern Award (1994) and University Teaching Excellence Award (1993), the University of Idaho's highest recognitions for teaching, and his research program received a Hammer Award from Vice President Gore for its role in improving efficiency in government. Dr. Machlis was also a recipient of the Department of the Interior's 2000 Conservation Service Award, one of the highest awards of the Department granted to private citizens.

Dr. Machlis is active in international conservation, and is a member of the IUCN's Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas. Dr. Machlis helped establish and directed the National Parks Science Scholars Program, with over $8 million in scholarships to students throughout the Americas. In 2007, he received the Special Achievement Award from the George Wright Society, the professional society for scientists andresource managers working in protected areas. His current research activities include applying human ecology to conserving national parks, the environmental impacts of warfare and its resulting humanitarian crises, restoration of the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 oil spill, and advancing science capacity in Haiti after its devastating earthquake. Recently, he was appointed by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to co-lead the Department’s Strategic Sciences Group, which has responsibility to conduct interdisciplinary science-based assessments during national environmental crises. In 2010, Dr. Machlis was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Katheryn Sullivan: Dr. Sullivan is assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and deputy administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She is also performing the duties of NOAA’s chief scientist. She is a distinguished scientist, renowned astronaut and intrepid explorer.

As assistant secretary, Dr. Sullivan plays a central role in directing Administration and NOAA priority work in the areas of weather and water services, climate science and services, integrated mapping services and Earth-observing capabilities. She provides agency-wide direction with regard to satellites, space weather, water, and ocean observations and forecasts to best serve American communities and businesses. As Deputy Administrator, she oversees the smooth operation of the agency.

Dr. Sullivan’s impressive expertise spans the frontiers of space and sea. An accomplished oceanographer, she was appointed NOAA’s chief scientist in 1993, where she oversaw a research and technology portfolio that included fisheries biology, climate change, satellite instrumentation and marine biodiversity.

Dr. Sullivan was the inaugural director of the Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy in the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University. Prior to joining Ohio State, she served a decade as President and CEO of the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio, one of the nation's leading science museums. Dr. Sullivan joined COSI after three years’ service as Chief Scientist.

Dr. Sullivan was one of the first six women selected to join the NASA astronaut corps in 1978 and holds the distinction of being the first American woman to walk in space. She flew on three shuttle missions during her 15-year tenure, including the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr. Sullivan has also served on the National Science Board (2004-2010) and as an oceanographer in the U.S. Navy Reserve (1988-2006).

Dr. Sullivan holds a bachelor's degree in earth sciences from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a doctorate in geology from Dalhousie University in Canada.


Tom Tidwell: Tom Tidwell has spent 33 years in the Forest Service. He has served in a variety of positions at all levels of the agency, including as district ranger, forest supervisor, and legislative affairs specialist in the Washington Office. As deputy regional forester for the Pacific Southwest Region, Tom facilitated collaborative approaches to wildland fire management, roadless area management, and other issues. As regional forester for the Northern Region, Tom strongly supported community-based collaboration in the region, finding solutions based on mutual goals and thereby reducing the number of appeals and lawsuits.

In 2009, after being named Chief, Tom set about implementing the Secretary’s vision for America’s forests. Under his leadership, the Forest Service is restoring healthy, resilient forest and grassland ecosystems—ecosystems that can sustain all the benefits that Americans get from their wildlands, including plentiful supplies of clean water, abundant habitat for wildlife and fish, renewable supplies of wood and energy, and more.

Such benefits are at risk from the effects of climate change, and Tom has led the way in forging a national response. Under Tom’s leadership, the Forest Service has charted a national roadmap for addressing climate change through adaptation and mitigation. The Forest Service is taking steps to help ecosystems adapt to the effects of a changing climate while also taking action to mitigate climate change, partly by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Tom has facilitated an all-lands approach to addressing the challenges facing America’s forests and grasslands, including the overarching challenge of climate change. Such challenges cross borders and boundaries; no single entity can meet them alone. Under Tom’s leadership, the Forest Service is working with states, Tribes, private landowners, and other partners for landscape-scale conservation—to restore ecosystems on a landscape scale.

Tom is married to Kim, and they have one daughter, MacKenzie.


Anthony Slatyer: Mr. Slatyer is a First Assistant Secretary in the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. He heads the Water Reform Division of the Department.


In this role, Mr Slatyer was a lead adviser to the Australian Government on water resource policy responses to the extreme drought conditions in southern Australia from 2001 to 2010, including the development of new market based and regulatory approaches to managing water scarcity, and the recently finalised Murray-Darling Basin Plan.


Before holding this position, Mr Slatyer held a number of senior executive positions in the Australian Government, with environment, transport and regional development policy responsibilities. Mr Slatyer has also held the positions of Executive Director of the Australian Government Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics, and Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum based in Fiji.


Mr Slatyer holds degrees in Law and Arts from the Australian National University.