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The Wilkes Center Speaker Series provides a welcoming venue for scientists, researchers, and policymakers to discuss challenges and solutions for the defining issue of our age - climate change. The series seeks to create a platform for distinguished researchers to share insights, to foster meaningful opportunities for dialogue and collaboration, and to enhance awareness and motivate effective policy action.

Every fall and spring semester, the Wilkes Center will leverage its on-campus partnerships to deliver speakers on a broad range of topics related to climate science and policy including the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and biodiversity, the role of renewable energy in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and the latest research on climate modeling and prediction.

2023/24 Wilkes Center Speaker Series

Wednesday, April 10th
7:00 - 8:30 PM

Illuminating the Future of Earth's Forests Under Climate Change


Natural History Museum of Utah, Community Room

The Wilkes Center is excited to co-sponsor this event with the Natural History Museum of Utah.

More information and RSVP to attend here.

Wednesday, Apr. 17th
7:00 - 8:00 PM

Robin Wall Kimmerer & Kyle Whyte
In Conversation

Moot Courtroom, S.J. Quinney College of Law

The Wilkes Center is excited to co-sponsor this event with the Tanner Humanities Center


Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, which has earned Kimmerer wide acclaim. Her first book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing, and her other work has appeared in Orion, Whole Terrain, and numerous scientific journals. In 2022, Braiding Sweetgrass was adapted for young adults by Monique Gray Smith. This new edition reinforces how wider ecological understanding stems from listening to the earth’s oldest teachers: the plants around us.


Kyle Whyte is George Willis Pack Professor at the School for Environment and Sustainability, teaching in the SEAS environmental justice specialization. He is founding Faculty Director of the Tishman Center for Social Justice and the Environment, Principal Investigator of the Energy Equity Project, and Affiliate Professor of Native American Studies and Philosophy. His research addresses environmental justice, focusing on moral and political issues concerning climate policy and Indigenous peoples, the ethics of cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and science organizations, and problems of Indigenous justice in public and academic discussions of food sovereignty, environmental justice, and the anthropocene. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

More information and RSVP to attend here.

Past Speaking Events


Thursday, Apr. 4th
7:00 - 8:00 PM

The Future of the Colorado River

Dr. Jack Schmidt, Director, Center for Colorado River Studies

Natural History Museum

The Wilkes Center is excited to co-sponsor this event with the American West Center and NHMU.

Join us for a lively conversation about the state of the Colorado River, water rights in the American West, and the future of water conservation in our region.  The event is free, but you must register at nhmu.utah.edu/events/future-colorado-river

Utah State University Professor Jack Schmidt has devoted nearly 40 years to research of river systems, centered on the Colorado River, its tributaries, and the Grand Canyon. During his academic career — as well as time spent as chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center — he has focused on the relationship of ecosystem health and dams, reservoirs and diversions associated with river management.

He currently serves as the director for the Center for Colorado River Studies, housed in the Quinney College of Natural Resources at USU. The center aims to produce innovative research, teaching and outreach that can help to inform focused decision-making and effective management of the Colorado River and other major rivers of the American Southwest.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024
12 Noon to 1 pm

Demystifying Nature

Michael White

Senior Editor at Nature

Crocker Science Center, Room 206

The inner workings of high profile journals can be mysterious. How do they decide what to publish, or even to send out to review? How is the process managed? What are the odds of getting published? Do they publish papers only in the interests of being controversial and getting press coverage? And who makes the decisions? Michael White -- Nature’s editor for climate -- discusses the overall journal processes and specific themes behind the climate science research published in Nature over the past 16 years.


Michael White is Nature’s editor for climate science. He handles submissions on atmospheres, oceans, the cryosphere, and hydrology – past, present and future, on Earth and other planets. Michael works closely with Nature’s editors for biogeoscience, economics, and ecology and is broadly experienced in interdisciplinary Earth System Science. Before coming to Nature in 2008, Michael was an academic at Utah State University, where he conducted research on land surface phenology and terrestrial biogeochemistry -- mostly using computational models and satellite remote sensing.

Thursday, February 8 2024, 12:15 pm - 1:15 pm MST

A Wallace Stegner Center Green Bag

The Future of Western U.S. Forests Under Climate Change 

William Anderegg,

Director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy and Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences

LOCATION: College of Law and Virtual Event

Our research aims to answer an urgent question: What is the future of Earth’s forests in a changing climate? Massive forest mortality events of many tree species in the last two decades prompt concerns that drought, insects, and wildfire may devastate forests in the coming decades. We study how drought and climate change affect forest ecosystems, including tree physiology, species interactions, carbon cycling, and biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks. This research spans a broad array of spatial scales from xylem cells to ecosystems and seeks to gain a better mechanistic understanding of how climate change will affect forests in the western U.S. and around the world.


William Anderegg is the Director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy and an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah. He grew up hiking and camping in the mountains in Colorado. He received his bachelors and Ph.D. from Stanford University and did a NOAA Climate & Global Change Postdoctoral Fellowship at Princeton University. He received the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation, an NSF CAREER award, the National Laureate in Life Sciences from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the Packard Foundation Fellowship in Science and Engineering, and the Early Career Fellow from the Ecological Society of America.

For more information and to Register:


Tuesday, January 23, 4:00 to 5:00 pm

Why have humans lost control of wildfire in the western United States?

Park Williams

UCLA Professor of Geography, Hydroclimatologist, 2023 MacArthur Fellow

Crocker Science Center, Room 206

Since the mid-1980s the annual area burned in the western U.S. has increased by approximately 300%. In forested areas, the increase has exceeded 1000%. Simple statistical relationships between fire activity and climate strongly suggest that this increase has been largely driven by warming and drying trends. Climate models indicate anthropogenic climate change as an important contributor to these trends. However, these results paint an overly simplistic picture. Fuel characteristics, ignitions by human, and firefighting also critically impact wildfire, and modulate the way in which climate affects wildfire. Further, these processes are highly heterogeneous geographically and have changed substantially in many areas over the past century. In this talk I will use a new, spatially explicit forest-fire and ecosystem model to assess of the magnitude and geography of the contribution of anthropogenic climate change to western U.S. forest-fire activity since the 1950s and how climate change is likely to affect forest fire, carbon, and ecosystems over the remainder of the 21st century.


Park Williams is a hydroclimatologist whose research aims to understand the causes and consequences of hydrological extremes such as drought. Much of his research focuses on hydroclimatology in its own right, and much also aims to improve understanding of how hydrological extremes affect life on earth (bioclimatology). Questions that he finds especially interesting involve the effects of human-caused climate change on the hydrological cycle, ecological systems, and humanity through extreme events such as heat waves, wildfires, and flooding.

Watch the recorded lecture here:

November 13, Noon to 1:00 pm

Utah and Climate Innovation Panel discussion

A panel discussion with:

  • Gabi Tellez, Managing Director, Utah Innovation Lab
  • Kim Shelley, Director, Utah Department of Environmental Quality
  • Luz Escamilla, Minority Leader, Utah State Senate
  • Moderator: Jennifer Robinson, Chief of Staff, Gardner Institute
Hinckley Institute caucus room - Room 2018, Gardner Commons

The Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy, along with the Gardner Policy Institute and the Hinckley Institute of Politics co-hosted this community discussion on the role of innovation in tackling climate change.  Could the state’s new Beehive Emissions Reduction Plan, using federal funds through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, help to stimulate local industries and Utah-focused green initiatives?  How can the state support a shifting Utah economy that is responsive to climate change and poor air quality?  Where does Utah have unique opportunities to meet demand for sustainable energy and climate-conscious technologies and businesses?

The Wilkes Center for Climate and Policy
Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute

Watch the recorded discussion here:
October 25, 10 to 11 AM 
Wilkes Center Coffee Hour with

David Wallace-Wells,
New York Times Climate Change Writer

Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Bldg, Jewel Box Conference Room

David Wallace-Wells is currently a columnist and staff writer at The New York Times, where he writes a weekly newsletter on climate change, technology and the future of the planet. He is author of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.

Wilkes Center Visiting Chair Ben Santer, presented several lectures at the University of Utah during his visit in September and October 2023.  Santer is the Fowler Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a Visiting Researcher at UCLA’s Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science & Engineering.


Exceptional Stratospheric Contribution to Human Fingerprints on Atmospheric Temperature (September 27, 2023)
Fingerprinting the Climate System Lecture (October 4, 2023)
Not Just Ancient History: Lessons Learned from the 1995 IPCC Report  (October 5, 2023)
Abstract: Fingerprint research seeks to improve understanding of the nature and causes of climate change. The basic strategy is to search in observed climate records for the patterns of climate change (the “fingerprints”) predicted by a computer model. Fingerprint studies exploit the fact that different factors affecting climate have different characteristic signatures. These unique attributes are clearer in detailed patterns of climate change than in records like the average temperature of Earth’s surface. Fingerprinting is a powerful tool for separating human and natural climate-change signals. Results from this research provided scientific support for the historic 1995 findings of a “discernible human influence” on global climate. Fingerprinting also contributed to work recognized by the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics. My presentation will look back at efforts to understand the causes of climate change with fingerprint methods. It will also address some of the key scientific challenges ahead, particularly in terms of communicating climate change science and assessing human contributions to the changing likelihood of extreme events.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Sister Cities Mayoral Climate Change Panel

The Wilkes Center and the S.J. Quinney College of Law co-hosted a Climate Change Panel discussion between Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Mayor Yoshinao Gaun of Matsumoto, Japan. In recognizing the 65th anniversary of successful collaborations between these two sister cities, the two mayors discussed ways the cities can share innovations for mitigating and adapting to global climate change. The discussion was moderated by Professor John Lin, Associate Director of the Wilkes Center.

Watch the recorded discussion and see the presentation slide deck HERE.

Have an idea for a speaker? Let us know.