College of Science Café Series

Meet UA Scientists doing cutting-edge research in a casual setting. Get to know the people behind the science, ask questions and learn about the connections from research to our everyday lives. The College of Science works with local, community partners to provide this rich experience to the public at no cost to participants.

Borderlands Science Cafe

The UA Science Café Series brings the community together with UA scientists and graduate students at five casual venues around Tucson.

Science Café @ the Garden

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Vital Signs: Diagnosis for the Future of Tropical Rainforests

This series is inspired by the Brazilian, landscape architect and avid conservationist, Robert Burle Marx, currently on exhibit. The quest to understand the complexity and diversity of tropical rainforests rages on, especially in the face of growing global threats. Researchers will present findings from studies ranging in high tech, remote sensing that measures plant diversity, impacts of deforestation in the Amazon and Biosphere 2 Rainforest trends in carbon and water cycling.  We'll conclude the series with a local study questioning if rainwater harvesting in landscape design may reduce reliance on groundwater.  *Series special offer! Guests of the Science Cafe are invited to stroll the gardens after the talk, courtesy of the Tucson Botanical Gardens

Series Dates: 6:00 PM | 2/6/20, 3/5/20, 4/2/20, 5/7/20

Venue & Address: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ

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Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill

Tumamoc Hill

The Cultural Landscape of Cemamagi Du’ag

Tumamoc Hill | Cemamagi Du’ag has been a site of culture and gathering for thousands of years. In this lecture series we will collectively learn from key voices about the vibrancy and essential connection between people and place. Join us to see the Hill of the Horned Lizard in a different way and appreciate its meaning through the millennia and into the future. Limited seating, for reservations contact: desertlaboratory@gmail.com or 520-629-9455

Series Dates: 6:00 PM | 1/22/20, 2/12/20, 3/18/20, 4/8/20, 5/13/20

Venue & Address: Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill, 1675 W. Anklam Rd Tucson, AZ

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Borderlands Brewing

Borderlands Brewing Tucson

The Frontlines in our Future

As societies and the challenges they face grow increasingly complicated, the climate emergency sharpens the need to understand those challenges and tackle solutions that are just, equitable and doable. From hurricane damages to missing histories, from urban storm water flooding to banana extinctions, this series from the Carson Scholars program explores problems and solutions in there here-and-now...and for the long tomorrow.

Series Dates: 6:00 PM | 1/9/20, 2/13/20, 3/19/20, 4/9/20

Venue & Address: Borderlands Brewing, 119 E. Toole Ave., Tucson, AZ

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Downtown Science Café

Magpies Gourmet Pizza Downtown

From Science to Stewardship: Earth Science In Action

How do we build a bridge from scientific knowledge to environmental action? This series will look at how scientific research can help us find the path to a sustainable future, how research informs land management policy, and how we use STEM knowledge to conserve and restore the natural ecosystems that we depend on to survive. The researchers in this series have all found ways to apply what they have learned through science. They share science to help society make the best decisions about how we use our land and water to shape a healthy world for all living things. Learn about the journey from Science to Stewardship in this new Science Café series!

Series Dates: 6:00 PM | 1/21/20, 2/20/20, 3/17/20, 4/21/20

Venue & Address: Magpies Gourmet Pizza 4th Ave., 605 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ

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SaddleBrooke Science Café

SaddleBrooke Science Café

Human Disease: Pathways to Cures

In this series, a team of researchers from the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology will shed light on our current understanding of human biology and disease. Our speakers will cover topics on basic cell biology, genetic testing and mechanisms of age related disease. Insights to cures and healthy aging will be revealed.

Series Dates: 6:30 PM | 1/9/20, 2/13/20, 3/19/20

Venue & Address: Desert View Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive, Tucson, AZ

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Past Science Café events

Magpies Science Cafe

Missed a café? you can find video recordings of each café on our Youtube page!

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Upcoming Science Café Events

Science Café @ the Garden

Talk Title details
Mapping Plant Chemistry: Improving Carbon Cycling Models in Tropical Forests
Dr. Sandra Duran, Research Scientist, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Date/Time: 2/6/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: An international team of scientists led by the University of Arizona used the latest technology in remote sensing to measure plant biodiversity from the Amazon basin to the Andes Mountains in Peru to better understand how tropical forests will respond to climate change.
Speaker Bio: Sandra M Duran is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. She completed PhD in Ecology at the University of Alberta in Canada. She is a broadly trained plant ecologist with extensive field experience in Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Canada and the USA. Her current research focuses on understanding how human-caused disturbances and climate change affect the abundance and distribution of plant communities, and how changes in plant traits influence ecosystem processes and function. To address these questions, she uses use a wide range of techniques and approaches including establishing forest permanent plots, quantifying carbon biomass, measuring plant functional traits and carbon fluxes.

The New Deforestation Threat: Amazonian Rainforests and the Global Environment
Dr. Scott Saleska, Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Date/Time: 3/5/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: Tropical deforestation reached a crisis in the Amazon in 2019, and the latest science shows how this will likely have impacts not only in South America but around the world. This is because these vast forests, often called the “lungs of the planet”, are both sinks for carbon and geysers of water, and are connected through the atmosphere, to the pulse of the planet’s climate and environment. 
Speaker Bio: Dr. Saleska is a global change ecologist who studies questions about how ecological communities interact with the atmosphere and climate, from local to global scales, and from the Amazon to the Arctic. These questions are important, because the response of life to climate change is one of the largest uncertainties in predicting the future of climate on earth.  He is a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona, where he is Agnese Nelms Haury Faculty Fellow in Environment and Social Justice, and an elected fellow of the Ecological Society of America. 
The Biosphere 2 Rainforest, a Magnifying Glass for Ecosystem Responses to Environmental Changes
Dr. Joost van Haren, Assistant Research Professor, Biosphere 2, Interdisciplinary Faculty, Honors College 
Date/Time: 4/2/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: Biosphere 2 is an iconic facility that allows scientists to experiment with environmental conditions and observe how the land surface or ecosystems respond. A scaled-down, model version of biosphere 1 (the Earth), serves as a magnifying glass on how ecosystems interact with the atmosphere where researchers can compare a mini-closed system to better inform large-scale ecosystem models. I will present the research conducted by Columbia University when it managed Biosphere 2 and preliminary results from the current large-scale international experiment (B2_WALD) tracing carbon and water through vegetation and soil.

The Ecology of Water Harvesting
Dr. Vanessa Buzzard, Senior Research Specialist, School of Natural Resources & the Environment

Date/Time: 5/7/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: Water harvest systems are common in residences throughout Tucson, but little has been done to explore how these systems impact ecological processes. We set out to classify changes in ecosystem processes relating to soil health after installation of various water harvesting systems. We assessed variation in soil properties and microbial diversity following installation of three water harvesting treatments; passive, irrigated, and greywater basins. Overall, our observations indicate that water harvesting influences the ecology of soil systems, which may play an important role in conserving groundwater!
Speaker Bio: Dr. Buzzard is a senior research specialist in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2017, where she focused on plant functional trait distributions across both space and time. She has since moved from studies of predominantly natural systems to focus on urban environments, where she extends questions regarding the drivers of biodiversity and ecosystem function in soils to human environments.


 Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill

Talk Title Details
TBD Date/Time: 1/22/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill, 1675 W. Anklam Rd Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: TBD
TBD Date/Time: 2/12/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill, 1675 W. Anklam Rd Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: TBD
TBD Date/Time: 3/18/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill, 1675 W. Anklam Rd Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: TBD
TBD Date/Time: 4/8/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill, 1675 W. Anklam Rd Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: TBD
TBD Date/Time: 5/13/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill, 1675 W. Anklam Rd Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: TBD

Borderlands Brewing

Talk Title Details
Harnessing Storm Water in Desert Cities
Neha Gupta, PhD Student, Department of Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences
Date/Time: 1/9/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Borderlands Brewing, 119 E. Toole Ave., Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: Desert cities such as Tucson, Arizona are trying to address the challenges of drought and flooding. An emerging strategy to address these problems involves capturing rainwater either as it falls, or as it runs through city streets as stormwater—approaches collectively termed “green infrastructure.” My research seeks to understand how green infrastructure networks work best in our desert landscape and how it is best implemented. 
More than a Thermometer, Bristlecone Pine as a Historian
Will Tintor, PhD Student, School of Geography and Development and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research
Date/Time: 2/13/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Borderlands Brewing, 119 E. Toole Ave., Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: We can understand past climates, droughts and floods in the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers through the research of tree-ring reconstruction from the Southern Rocky Mountain region. This research can help us plan for future climate changes by constructing records of past temperature variability. We will discuss research, focused on the Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine, the oldest tree species found in this region, and its impact on producing temperature and climate records from the past several millennia.
Suspending Death for an Uncertain Future: Banana Conservation at the Brink of Disaster
Hea-Ream Lee, MFA Student in Creative Writing, Department of English
Date/Time: 3/19/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Borderlands Brewing, 119 E. Toole Ave., Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: The International Musa Transit Center, a research facility in Leuven, Belgium, houses the largest collection of banana germplasm in the world. There, banana germplasm is frozen and preserved in tanks of liquid nitrogen, where it is kept inert until it is needed again. Into what future will these banana plants be revived? How do we square the irony of freezing bananas in a time of rapid warming, with the fear of losing a staple crop to extinction? 

Building Resiliency: Do Yesterday’s Construction Codes Protect Us From Today’s Superstorms?
Logan Blair, PhD Student, School of Government and Public Policy 

Date/Time: 4/9/2020 | 6:00 PM
Talk Description: Date/Time: 3/19/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Borderlands Brewing, 119 E. Toole Ave., Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: As more people move to the coast each year, extreme weather threaten lives and property at an alarming rate. Authorities are scrambling to ensure more resilient communities through policy tools such as building codes that encourage reinforced roofs and foundations. Using aerial imagery, we will explore the aftermath of Hurricane Michael to determine how effective these tools really are. 

Downtown Science Café

Talk Title Details
Can Science Save the World’s Forests?
Don Falk, Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research
Date/Time: 1/21/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Magpies Gourmet Pizza 4th Ave., 605 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: Forests represent a key biome for the planet Earth. They support a dazzling diversity of species, they store vast amounts of carbon, and they are home to many human cultures. As our climate changes, forests are under stress, from drought and higher temperatures to increased wildfires and insect outbreaks. Can our forests adapt to survive? In this Science Café, leading forest and wildfire expert Don Falk will explore how forests are coping with climate stress, and how science can help.
Putting Microbes to Work for Clean Water and Heathy Soil
Dawson Fairbanks, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science
Date/Time: 2/20/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Magpies Gourmet Pizza 4th Ave., 605 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: Most of us don’t often think about microbes, the tiny organisms that live all around us, especially in soil. Those microbes support all the higher forms of life, from plants to birds to people. The more we understand about the role of this microbial “unseen majority,” the more we can support microbes to help stabilize carbon, conserve soil, and foster resilient watersheds. In this Café we’ll learn why humans and ecosystems need microbes to survive in a rapidly warming world.
From Invasive Shrubs to Grassland Restoration: The Chop n’ Drop Method
Ariel Leger, Graduate Student, Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science
Date/Time: 3/17/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Magpies Gourmet Pizza 4th Ave., 605 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: In Southwestern Arizona, grasslands provide essential ecosystem services such as clean water, forage for cattle, and habitat for wildlife. Unfortunately, the grasslands are under threat. Large areas of Southern Arizona's historic grasslands are caught in a cycle of degradation due to continuous grazing and drought, which in turn encourages the dominance of woody shrubs such as mesquite and creosote. This cycle exposes the topsoil to erosion and amplifies the problem. However, scientific studies have found low cost methods to reverse the cycle of degradation and restore our native grasslands. Find out more about how science has found solutions at this month’s Science Café.

How to Heal the Desert: Strategies for Restoration
Elise Gornish, Cooperative Extension Specialist in Ecological Restoration, School of Natural Rescources and the Environment 

Date/Time: 4/21/2020 | 6:00 PM
Talk Description: Date/Time: 3/19/2020 | 6:00 PM
Venue & Address: Magpies Gourmet Pizza 4th Ave., 605 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: In the Southwestern United States, the health of our deserts and arid lands has been degraded by decades of neglect. Climate change, land development, and invasive non-native plants continue to stress these habitats. However, we can change that trend by restoring native plant species that foster healthy habitats. This Science Café presentation will explore why restoration is important, show how to do it, and highlight some of the novel approaches to habitat rehabilitation that can be applied by a variety of stakeholders, from the backyard gardener to the thousand-acre land manager.

SaddleBrooke Science Café

Talk Title Details
Genetic Testing: Hype and Reality
Ryan Gutenkunst, Associate Department Head & Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Date/Time: 1/09/2020 | 6:30 PM
Venue & Address: Desert View Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive, Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is a booming industry. Providers claim that their tests can reveal critical information about your health and ancestry. But how reliable are those claims? I’ll discuss the science behind the hype. In particular, I'll cover what these companies are actually measuring about your genome and how they use those measurements to learn about your past ancestors and your future health. Together, we’ll see how the complexities of human biology and human history limit what can be learned from genomic tests.
Pediatric Cancers are not Like the Others
Justina McEvoy, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, BIO5 Institute and Pediatrics
Date/Time: 2/13/2020 | 6:30 PM
Venue & Address: Desert View Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive, Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: One of the major characteristic features of most cancers is the high number of mutations in key genes that are essential for tumor growth. Although this is still the current dogma in most adult cancers, sequencing studies over the past 10 years have revealed that pediatric tumors do not require a high number of mutations to progress. So, how do these cells become cancer with fewer mutations? In this talk, I will describe key contributing mechanisms that pediatric cancer cells utilize for disease progression. 
The Science of Getting Older
George Stuphin, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, BIO5 Institute and Cancer Biology GIDP
Date/Time: 3/19/2020 | 6:30 PM
Venue & Address: Desert View Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Drive, Tucson, AZ
Talk Description: Advances in medicine over the past two centuries have pushed life expectancy into the early 80s, allowing us to live longer and more productive lives. The downside is that advanced age is accompanied by reduced function of our bodies and increased risk of late-life diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease. These place a growing burden on our society for both personal well-being and ballooning healthcare costs. We will discuss changes in the underlying biology that fundamentally drive aging, and how these changes lead to disease. Join us and learn how we might prevent, slow, or even reverse these biological changes to maintain health later in life. 

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