Second Annual San Francisco Area Alumni Gathering

Learning from the Octopus: How Observations of Nature are Transforming Science and Society


Salaeha Shariff 
AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships 


Thursday December 6, 2012 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM EST

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The University Club of San Francisco
800 Powell Street
Main Dining Room
San Francisco, CA 94108
The Club requires business casual attire. Mobile devices may be used only for nonverbal activity, except in lobby.

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 Learning From the OctopusJoin fellow Fellows in the San Francisco bay area for an exciting evening of science policy. Learn about the growth of the Fellowship program including plans for the 40th anniversary celebration and hear from alumni Fellow, Rafe Sagarin.  

Learning from the Octopus: How Observations of Nature are Transforming Science and Society

In April 2012, Rafe Sagarin told an audience at AAAS. “When it comes to security challenges, the natural world demonstrates the values of decentralizing, learning from success, and forming symbiotic relationships.” He put forward that such insights are particularly compelling in the post-9/11 security environment and as policy makers strive to meet the demands of national disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Coast Guard’s containment of a 9 million gallon oil spill and the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Observatio & EcologyDr. Sagarin will discuss two new books that were inspired by his career as a marine ecologist and his experiences as an AAAS fellow in 2002-03 in the office of Congresswoman Hilda Solis. Observation and Ecology: Broadening the Scope of Science to Understand a Complex World (Island Press July 2012) is a “Back to the Future” story, where the old ways of doing science—through intensive natural observation and a sense that studies of the biological world have direct relevance to human societies—meet today’s enormous environmental challenges, modern observational technologies, and greater openness in science to observers from all walks of life. Observations of the world--whether handed down through the hunting stories of tribal elders, taken by citizens counting neighborhood birds, or compiled from millions of satellite observations of a rain forest--have enormous potential to help us understand a rapidly changing planet. Learning from the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorism Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease (Basic Books, April 2012) shows how we can apply lessons from 3.5 billion years of biological adaptation to dealing with risk and uncertainty in human society.  

Using stories of scientists, politicians, soldiers and sea creatures, Sagarin will try to convey the current excitement in the life sciences as we enter a whole new era of discovery, driven by as much by urgency as curiosity.

Join Rafe for an exciting presentation on how to apply lessons from nature to modern day challenges.  

Speaker Biography
Rafe SagarinRafe Sagarin is a marine ecologist and environmental policy analyst at the University of Arizona.  In both his science and policy work, Sagarin connects basic observations of nature to issues of broad societal interest, including conservation biology, protecting public trust resources, and making responses to terrorism and other security threats more adaptable.   Dr. Sagarin is a recipient of a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship and has recently published two books, Learning from the Octopus (Basic Books, March 2012) and Observation and Ecology (Island Press, July 2012), which show how nature observation--when extended across large scales and enhanced with both new technologies and greater deference to traditional knowledge sources—is revealing profound new insights about our dynamic social and ecological world.  He was a Geological Society of America Congressional Science Fellow in the office of U.S. Representative (and later U.S. Secretary of Labor) Hilda Solis. He has taught ecology and environmental policy at Duke University, California State University Monterey Bay, Stanford University, University of California, Los Angeles and University of Arizona. His research has appeared in Science, Nature, Conservation Biology, Ecological Monographs, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security Affairs and other leading journals, magazines, and newspapers. He is the editor, with Terence Taylor of the volume Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World (2008, University of California Press).