If we have one minute to explain to our grandchild what is really important to us, what would we talk about?
That is what Paul Dayton, a professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, will tackle when he speaks at 4 p.m. April 22 in Hojel Hall Auditorium of the Institute of the Americas.
Dayton is the 2004 Faculty Research Lecture Award recipient selected by the UCSD Division of the Academic Senate. The title of his lecture is The Loss of Nature and the Nature of the Loss: Impacts of Specialization. The event is free and open to the public.
"At first glance, the sense of fear and awe one experiences in true wilderness seems very different from the important cultural experiences," says Dayton. "Indeed, this is the real theme of my talk ... Nature and culture are ... the sweeping tapestry we integrate into our most cherished values. What do we consider our own defining natural and cultural experiences?"
In talking about nature, Dayton says we "lose a sense of the deep respect for a system much bigger than ourselves ... As a biologist ... I must emphasize that much of our deep culture evolved with [a] spiritual sense of awe evoked by the natural world.
"Most important, related to culture, human experience, knowledge, curiosity and creativity, is the wonder that we can pass on to our children."
Dayton says that though specialization is essential to progress, "the most successful ecological science rests on a generalized approach integrating many patterns and processes." He would like to see a more generalized approach in higher education.
Acknowledging the importance of specialization and the progress made through it, Dayton says "the rich natural and cultural tapestry suffers from excessive specialization in academe ... It would be nice to tell our grandchildren that we have contributed to restoring the harmony between nature and culture that defines our sense of self."
Dayton poses the question: "What is academe doing to improve our values?"
Dayton received a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona and a doctorate from the University of Washington. In nominating him for the Faculty Research Lecturer Award, Lisa A. Levin and David M. Checkley Jr. of the Integrative Oceanography Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, wrote: "Paul Dayton ... is among the world's most eminent marine ecologists and is broadly known as a pioneer in the field of community ecology among marine, terrestrial, and aquatic investigators," and that Dayton is "among the first marine ecologists to advocate application of ecological principles in service of societal problems.
"Dayton's efforts are the backbone of much modern conservation biology in coastal regimes and his leadership role is widely acknowledged."
Levin and Checkley add that Dayton's "current lecture themes are likely to startle and awaken audiences to the pressing need for fishing impact assessment, the changing face of the coastal zone including the loss/absence of large predatory species, and to advocate the desperate need for scientists to study and understand the natural history of their ecosystems."
For further information on the Dayton lecture, call (858) 534-0101.