‘The Black Birder’: Drew Lanham discusses how culture influences the environmental movement

Professor and conservationist focuses on the connections between ethnicity and passion for nature

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Drew Lanham

Environmental advocate, zoologist, professor and poet Drew Lanham will present “The Uncomfortable Elephant Bird of Color in the Room—Addressing the Coming Changes in Conservation” at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27 in the Liberal Arts Hall auditorium at Rochester Institute of Technology. Lanham’s discussion will center on how culture and ethnic prisms can bend perceptions of nature and its care as well as how to define environmental sustainability and conservation in new ways.

The program is free and open to campus faculty, staff and students as well as the general public. It is co-sponsored by RIT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and Rochester’s Seneca Park Zoo Society.

“The lack of diversity in the field of conservation has been drawing increasing awareness in recent years, with topics such as ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ and environmental inequality entering the national conversation. Conservation organizations have begun to seek methods of delivering their crucial environmental messages to more expansive audiences, and especially to underserved communities,” said Pamela Reed Sanchez, executive director of the Seneca Park Zoo Society. “But there is still an enormous amount of work to be done to make the field and its goals accessible to all. We are proud to host Dr. Lanham and join him in this effort.”

In his teaching, research, and outreach roles, Lanham focuses on the importance of conservation science and how to make it accessible to a broader audience. Lanham holds an endowed chair as an Alumni Distinguished Professor at Clemson University. He has been at the university for more than 20 years and was named an Alumni Master Teacher in 2012.

Lanham is a member of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, South Carolina Audubon, Aldo Leopold Foundation, BirdNote and the American Birding Association. He is also an inaugural fellow of the Audubon-Toyota Together Green initiative, a 2016 National Science Teachers Association Brandwein Fellow and a member of the advisory council for the North American Association of Environmental Education. A widely published author and award-nominated poet, Lanham writes about his experiences as a birder, hunter and “wild, wandering soul.”

After his presentation, Lanham will sign copies of his newest autobiography, The Home Place: A Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature and a book of poetry, Sparrow Envy.