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Undisciplined: Climate Goes Viral

  As it was becoming clear that the United States was going to be one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was asked to talk to a group of climate adaptation students about crisis communication — and I worried at first that I wouldn’t be able to draw lines between two very different crises. It turns out, though, that these crises have a lot in common.

Barry Margulies is an expert in molecular virology at Towson University, where he teaches classes in virology and the microbiology of infectious diseases. He’s long been concerned about improving the way virologists communicate with the public. 

Just fifteen minutes south of Towson University, you’ll find Johns Hopkins, and that’s where Gary Ketner researches viral gene expression and vaccines, and where he teaches courses on the intersection of biological research and public health. 

And now we’ll move from Maryland to Colorado, where Holly Olivarez is a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow who studies the exchange of CO2 between the oceans and the atmosphere, and who has spent quite a lot of the past few months talking about the connections between communicating climate change and COVID-19. 

And also joining us from Colorado is Danielle Lemmon. They first joined us back in June of 2019 to talk about the diversity of El Niño events worldwide and have been a guest several times on our monthly science news round-up programs — which we temporarily suspended during the pandemic, but which will be back soon. 

Matthew LaPlante has reported on ritual infanticide in Northern Africa, insurgent warfare in the Middle East, the legacy of genocide in Southeast Asia, and gang violence in Central America. But a few years back, something donned on him: Maybe the news doesn't have to be brutally depressing all the time. Today, he balances his continuing work on more heartbreaking subjects by writing books about the intersection of science, human health and society, including the New York Times best-selling Lifespan with geneticist David Sinclair and the Nautilus Award-winning Longevity Plan with cardiologist John Day. His first solo book, Superlative, looks at what scientists are learning by studying organisms that have evolved in record-setting ways, and his is currently at work on another book about embracing the inevitability of human-caused climate change with an optimistic outlook on the future.