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Bright Horizons 11 Speakers

Eastern Caribbean • January 14th – 21st, 2012



Dr. Spencer Barrett was born in England and received his B.Sc. in horticultural botany from the University of Reading in 1971. He worked as a weed biologist in Swaziland for the Commonwealth Development Corporation before moving to the University of California at Berkeley, where he obtained his Ph.D. from the Botany Department in 1977. In the same year, he was appointed as a faculty member at the University of Toronto where he is now University Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and leads an internationally renowned research group in plant evolutionary biology.

Professor Barrett is one of the world’s leading authorities on the reproductive biology, genetics, and evolution of flowering plants. His primary areas of research are the mechanisms responsible for evolutionary transitions in plant reproductive systems and the evolution and function of floral design. Professor Barrett’s laboratory in Toronto applies a wide range of approaches to solving problems in plant evolution from ‘muddy boots’ field ecology to theoretical models and genomics. He travels widely and has many international collaborations, including current research projects in Argentina, Chile, China, New Zealand, and South Africa. His many scientific contributions have rejuvenated plant reproductive biology making it one of the most active areas within ecology and evolutionary biology. In addition to his studies on plant reproduction, Professor Barrett is also an internationally recognized expert on the ecology and genetics of plant invasions and the environmental consequences of genetically modified crops.

Professor Barrett has received numerous awards in recognition of his pre-eminence as both an evolutionary biologist and plant scientist. He is an NSERC EWR Steacie Memorial Fellowship winner (1988) and a recipient of the highest awards given by the Botanical Society of America (Merit Award, 2003) and the Canadian Botanical Association (Lawson Medal, 2006). He was the inaugural winner of the Premier’s Discovery Award in Life Science and Medicine (2007) awarded by the Government of Ontario for his leadership role in building a culture of research and innovation in the Province of Ontario. In 2008 he received the prestigious Sewall Wright Award given by the American Society of Naturalists for a senior investigator who has made major contributions to the conceptual unification of the biological sciences. Professor Barrett is a fellow of Royal Society of Canada (1998) and the Royal Society of London (2004) and in 2009 he was elected Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science. He has been appointed Adjunct Professor at Washington State University, Pullman; a visiting Guest Professor at Wuhan University, China; and in 2010 was made Extraordinary Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. Professor Barrett is currently the President of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution and Vice President (N. America) of the Society for the Study of Evolution.

During his tenure at the University of Toronto, Professor Barrett has not only excelled as a scholar but also as an outstanding teacher, mentor, and communicator of science. He has taught first-year biology throughout his career and for the past 15 years has been the team leader of the largest first-year biology class in Canada with ~1,800 students. For these contributions he received an Outstanding Teaching Award (1992) from the Faculty of Arts and Science, and the Northrop Frye Award (1999) for linking teaching and research in the classroom.


Dr. Marc Davis is a Professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Davis received his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1969, his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1973 and has been elected to both the National Academy of Sciences (1991) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1992).

Davis’ work has been in physical cosmology and he is the lead principal investigator on the ambitious DEEP2 galactic redshift survey of 50,000 high redshift galaxies. The scientific goals of the DEEP survey are to study the properties of galaxies and the clustering of galaxies as the universe has evolved.


Dr. Frans de Waal was trained as a zoologist and ethologist in the European tradition at three Dutch universities (Nijmegen, Groningen, Utrecht), resulting in a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Utrecht in 1977. His dissertation research concerned aggressive behavior and alliance formation in macaques. In 1975, a six-year project was initiated on the world’s largest captive colony of chimpanzees at the Arnhem Zoo. Apart from a large number of scientific papers, this work found its way to the general public with Chimpanzee Politics (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982).

In 1981, Dr. de Waal accepted a research position at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. There he began both observational and experimental studies of reconciliation behavior in monkeys. He received the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Peacemaking Among Primates (Harvard University Press, 1989) a popularized account of fifteen years of research on conflict resolution in nonhuman primates. Since the mid ’80s, Dr. de Waal also worked with chimpanzees at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and their close relatives, bonobos, at the San Diego Zoo.

In 1991, Dr. de Waal accepted a joint position in the Psychology Department of Emory University and at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, both in Atlanta. His current interests include food-sharing, social reciprocity, and conflict-resolution in primates as well as the origins of morality and justice in human society. His most recent books discuss the evolutionary origin of human morality, and the implications of that we know about bonobos for models of human social evolution: Good Natured (Harvard University Press, 1996), and Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (University of California Press, 1997). His latest book is The Age of Empathy (Harmony Books, 2009).

The research of Dr. de Waal is funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the National Institutes of Health, and private foundations.


Dr. Patrick McGovern is the Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Anthropology. His academic background combined the physical sciences, archaeology, and history — an A.B. in Chemistry from Cornell University, graduate work in neurochemistry at the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Archaeology and Literature from the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Department of the University of Pennsylvania.

Over the past two decades, he has pioneered the emerging field of Molecular Archaeology. In addition to being engaged in a wide range of other archaeological chemical studies, including radiocarbon dating, cesium magnetometer surveying, colorant analysis of ancient glasses, and pottery technology his endeavors of late have focused on the organic analysis of vessel contents and dyes, particularly Royal Purple, wine, and beer. The chemical confirmation of the earliest instances of these organics — Royal Purple dating to 1300–1200 B.C. and wine and beer dating to 3500–3100 B.C. — received wide media coverage. A 1996 article published in Nature, the international scientific journal, pushed the earliest date for wine back another 2000 years — to the Neolithic period (5400–5000 B.C.).

His research — showing what Molecular Archaeology is capable of achieving — has involved reconstructing the “King Midas funerary feast” (Nature 402, Dec. 23, 1999: 863–64) and chemically confirming the earliest fermented beverage from anywhere in the world — Neolithic China, some 9000 years ago, where pottery jars were shown to contain a mixed drink of rice, honey, and grape/hawthorn tree fruit (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 101.51: 17593–98). Most recently, he and colleagues identified the earliest beverage made from cacao (chocolate) from a site in Honduras, dated to circa 1150 B.C., and an herbal wine from Dynasty 0 in Egypt.

He is the author of Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton University Press, 2003), and most recently, Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages (Berkeley: University of California, 2009). In addition to over 100 periodical articles, McGovern has also written or edited 10 books, including The Origins and Ancient History of Wine (Gordon and Breach, 1996), Organic Contents of Ancient Vessels (MASCA, 1990), Cross-Craft and Cross-Cultural Interactions in Ceramics (American Ceramic Society, 1989), and Late Bronze Palestinian Pendants: Innovation in a Cosmopolitan Age (Sheffield, 1985). In 2000, his book on the Foreign Relations of the “Hyksos,”, a scientific study of Middle Bronze pottery in the Eastern Mediterranean, was published by Archaeopress.

As a Research Associate in the Near East Section of the Museum, he has also directed the Baqàh Valley (Jordan) Project over the past 25 years (described in a University Museum monograph, The Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages of Central Transjordan, 1986), and been involved with many other excavations throughout the Middle East as a pottery and stratigraphic consultant. A detailed study of the New Kingdom Egyptian garrison at Beth Shan, an older Museum excavation, also appeared in 1994 in the Museum Monograph series, entitled The Late Bronze Egyptian Garrison at Beth Shan.

As an Adjunct Professor in the Anthropology Dept. at Penn, he teaches courses on Molecular Archaeology.


Dr. Richard Wolfson is Benjamin F. Wissler Professor of Physics at Middlebury College, and also teaches in Middlebury’s Environmental Studies Program. He did undergraduate work at MIT and Swarthmore College, graduating from Swarthmore with a double major in physics and philosophy. Dr. Wolfson holds a master’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in physics from Dartmouth.

Wolfson’s current research involves the eruptive behavior of the Sun’s corona, as well as terrestrial climate change. Other published work encompasses such diverse fields as medical physics, plasma physics, solar energy engineering, electronic circuit design, nuclear issues, observational astronomy, and theoretical astrophysics. His books Nuclear Choices: A Citizen’s Guide to Nuclear Technology (MIT Press, 1993) and Simply Einstein: Relativity Demystified (W.W. Norton, 2003), exemplify Wolfson’s interest in making science accessible to nonscientists. Textbooks include three editions of Physics for Scientists and Engineers (co-authored with Jay M. Pasachoff), two editions of Essential University Physics (Addison-Wesley, 2007, 2010), Energy, Environment, and Climate (W.W. Norton, 2008), and Essential College Physics (Addison-Wesley, 2010), coauthored with Andrew Rex. Wolfson he has also published in Scientific American and writes for World Book Encyclopedia. He has produced four video courses for The Teaching Company, including Einstein’s Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Nonscientists (1999), Physics in Your Life (2004), Earth’s Changing Climate (2007), and How the Universe Works: Understanding Physics, from Quark to Galaxy (2011). Dr. Wolfson has also lectured for the One Day University.

Wolfson has spent sabbaticals at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado; at St. Andrews University in Scotland; and at Stanford University. In 2009 he was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

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