Director’s Lecture Series

Directors Lecture Series

Director’s Lecture Series

Each winter, Director William (Ned) Friedman and the Arnold Arboretum present the Director’s Lecture Series, featuring nationally recognized experts addressing an array of topics related to Earth’s biodiversity and evolutionary history, the environment, conservation biology, and key social issues associated with current science. Lectures take place in the Hunnewell Building Lecture Hall. Parking will be available along the Arborway and in front of the Hunnewell Building on lecture nights.

Visit Past Series to see descriptions and listen to audio (when available) of past lectures.

2016 Series: February 1, March 7, and April 4

Free, but registration required. Space is limited.
Member-only registration through December 15; General registration after December 15

Dinosaur Landscapes and the Beginning of Flowers

Peter Crane, Carl W. Knobloch Jr. Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University
Monday, February 1, 7:00–8:30pm, Hunnewell Building

Peter CraneT RexIt was once famously said that plants and animals “dance to a different evolutionary beat.” There is no more striking example than between 140 and 65 million years ago when dinosaurs dominated the global landscape. While some changes in dinosaur communities certainly occurred through this period, much more dramatic was a major upheaval in the composition of the world’s vegetation, including the first appearance and rapid rise to dominance of flowering plants. Discoveries over the past 35 years, combined with new paleontological techniques, have provided previously unexpected insights into the expansion of flowering plants about 100 million years ago, including the nature of the earliest flowers. Subsequently, for more than 30 million years, dinosaurs shared the landscape with plants very similar to those of today, but these unusual ecosystems came to a sudden end when dinosaurs met their demise in one of the most dramatic of all mass extinctions. In contrast, flowering plants not only persisted, but flourished and evolved in new ways, resulting in the more than 350,000 flowering plant species that now sustain us and enrich our lives. Register »

The Director’s Lens on Plants: Five Tales of Plant Obsession

William (Ned) Friedman, Arnold Arboretum Director and Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
Monday, March 7, 7:00–8:30pm, Hunnewell Building

C fargessi Ned webArboretum Director William (Ned) Friedman has an eye for detail and infectious enthusiasm when the subject matter is plants. For nearly two years, he has been regularly walking in the Arboretum’s living collections, intensively photographing and documenting these magnificent plants and their biological magic. In this evening session, Ned will share his images and stories of some of the most wonderful and ephemeral phenomena that he has had the good fortune to observe in the Arboretum. Join us for an interactive session on buzz pollination in the rhododendrons; the quest for the perfect picture of a young red larch cone; the incredible lightness of winged birch fruits; nectar guides (for insects) and the “Nedbud” redbud (Cercis canadensis) mutant; and magnolias in fruit. With spring nearly in sight, he will celebrate some of the extraordinary beauty of the Arboretum’s plants and whet your appetites for the year to come. Register »

1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus

Charles C. Mann, journalist and writer
Monday, April 4, 7:00–8:30pm, Hunnewell Building

Charles C. Mann1491 Book JacketContrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately cleaned streets and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized breeding process that has been called man’s first feat of genetic engineering. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Combining science, history, and archeology, Charles C. Mann will present a transformative look at a rich and fascinating world, radically altering our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492. Register »