Speakers Bureau

Learn more about speakers available to make public presentations.


Dr. David Karowe is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at WMU. Karowe's lab is looking into how the nutritional quality and defensive chemistry of plants change under elevated CO2 and how such changes affect the growth, survivorship, and behavior of insect herbivores and parasitoids. The ultimate goal of this research is to expand understanding of the ecological and evolutionary consequences of elevated CO2 to include higher trophic levels. This work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture. 

Lecture topics: The Scientific Case for Urgent Action on Climate ChangeClimate Impacts on the Great Lakes.

Contact: david.karowe@wmich.edu


Denise Keele received her Ph.D. in Environmental Politics from SUNY-ESF, Syracuse, and is currently an Associate Professor of Political Science, jointly appointed with the Institute of the Environment & Sustainability, at Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo, Michigan USA.  Her research and teaching focus on environmental policy and law, in particular the use of the courts to influence public policy. Since 2014, she has chaired the interdisciplinary WMU Climate Change Working Group. In 2018, she became the faculty co-chair of WeVote, WMU’s non-partisan committee focused on voter registration, education, and turnout.

Lecture topics: Climate Change in the American MindClimate Policies and Politics; Making Your Voice Heard: Your Climate Vote
Contact: denise.keele@wmich.edu


Dr. Duane Hampton is a groundwater geologist with a B.S. in geology from Michigan State, and M.S. and Ph.D. in civil engineering from Auburn and Colorado State.  Some of his summer jobs were at USGS, the National Wildlife Foundation, and the Conservation Foundation.  Duane teaches courses in the area of hydrogeology, as well as climate change and surface water hydrology.  Duane has taught an introductory climate change class at Western annually since 2011.  He has studied the effects of climate change on the hydrologic cycle in Michigan.  Since 1970 temperatures and rainfall have increased almost everywhere, and snow has decreased in most locations.

Lecture Topics: Climate History to 1850: The Geological RecordDebunking Climate Myths
Contact: duane.hampton@wmich.edu


Dr. Michelle Kominz’s work focuses on long-term climate changes driven by tectonic and other forces that range from tectonics when the continents did not appear as they do today to orbitally-driven climate cyclicity (20 thousand to 400 thousand year cyclicity). She has published extensively in journals such as Science-based on significant funding, mainly from NSF. Dr. Kominz is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She and Dr. Kehew and Sultan are Fellows of the Geological Society of America.

Lecture Topics: The Seas Are Rising: Ocean Systems

Contact: michelle.kominz@wmich.edu


Paul Clements is a professor of Political Science at WMU where he directs the master’s program in International Development Administration. He received a BA in Social Studies from Harvard and a Ph.D. in Public Affairs from Princeton. Most of his childhood was spent in Hong Kong and India, and he lived in The Gambia, West Africa for five years. Where he originally served as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He has conducted evaluations of development projects and worked on evaluation systems in many Africa countries and in Bangladesh, Brazil, and the Philippines. In 2014 and 2016 he was the Democratic candidate for Congress in Michigan’s Sixth District. At WMU he co-founded the Climate Change Working Group and he helped to launch a graduate certificate program in Climate Change Policy and Management. He is also a founding member of the Kalamazoo Climate Crisis Coalition, and with one of his classes, he wrote the original draft of the Kalamazoo Climate Action Plan for the City of Kalamazoo. His publications include Rawlsian Political Analysis: Rethinking the Microfoundations of Social Science with the University of Notre Dame Press, “Rawlsian Ethics of Climate Change” in Critical Criminology, and a chapter on “Contractualism and Climate Change” in the forthcoming book, Moral Theory and Climate Change: Ethical Perspectives on a Warming Planet.

Lecture topics: The Institutions and Politics of the Climate Crisis; Climate Policies and Politics; Global Political Economy of Sustainability

Contact: paul.clements@wmich.edu


Dr. Daniel Macfarlane is an associate professor in the Institute of Environment and Sustainability at WMU. His research on environmental history, political ecology, historical geography, and policy looks at climate change related to water, particularly in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin. He is currently writing a book on Lake Ontario in which a major theme is climate change and is close to finishing another book on the history of US-Canada environmental and energy relations in which climate change is a focus in the later parts. As an outgrowth of that book, Dr. Macfarlane also worked on journal articles on the history of Canada-US hydropower cross border trade and regulation, and a history of Canadian climate change diplomacy.

Lecture topics: Climate Change and Great Lakes Water Policies; North American Energy Policies and Climate Change; US-Canada Hydroelectric Relations

Contact: daniel.macfarlane@wmich.edu 


Dr. Allen Webb is a professor of English at WMU. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The University of Oregon in 1992 and has conducted research and numerous publishings on teaching about the climate crisis in the humanities and social sciences. He teaches climate change-related courses such as cultural studies and climate change, and African literature. 

Lecture topics: Lecture Topics: Urgency of the Climate Crisis, Teaching the Climate Emergency, Cli-Fi Literature and Imagining Climate Futures; Climate Change and American Public Education; Taking Action on the Climate Crisis; Climate Breakdown and Refugees; Climate Breakdown and Civil Disobedience

Contact: allen.webb@wmich.edu


Dr. Caroline Webber is a retired professor of Family and Consumer Science at WMU. Webbers’ research and focus works to connect dietetics with the environment, specifically sustainable food systems and diet. She was a part of the Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Practice Group (Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics) and the Sustainable Food Systems Division (Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior) - both of which she held positions in.

Contact: caroline.webber@wmich.edu


Dr. Cynthia Pietras is an associate professor of Psychology at WMU. Her research and scholarship involve using principles of behavioral psychology to better understand the human response to climate change. She is also conducting experimental research on climate-change decision-making and variables that influence choice. She is currently working on a book about behavioral psychology and its application to climate change. Pietras is a part of a team of researchers that is designing a community intervention using mobile technology to reward sustainable behaviors.

Lecture Topics: Human Behavior and Climate Change

Contact: cynthia.pietras@wmich.edu


Dr. Heather McGee is an associate professor of Psychology at WMU and co-chair of the Industrial-Organizational Behavior Management Program. She received her Ph.D. in psychology from WMU in 2004 and has research interests in comprehensive behavioral systems analyst, behavior-based safety, and instructional technology and learning. Dr. McGee is also co-founder of Performance Blueprints, a performance improvement consulting firm specializing in helping small businesses, non-profits & human service settings by providing a variety of consulting and training services. She also teaches the climate-related course; Behavioral Approaches to Sustainability.

Lecture Topics: Behavioral Approaches to Addressing Climate Change

Contact: heather.mcgee@wmich.edu


Dr. Kathryn Docherty is an associate professor of Biological Sciences at WMU. She has given public talks about soil microbial ecology and restoration, which relate to climate change to several public organizations, including Asylum Lake Preservation Council, Michigan Prescribed Fire Council, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, Toledo Oak Openings MetroParks, and Pierce Cedar Creek Institute (webinar). Within the scientific community, she has given talks on this topic at the Ecological Society of America meeting, the Midwest Great Lakes Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration, and the Soil Ecology Society. Currently, she is engaged in an ongoing project which explores best practices for below-ground soil restoration in reclaimed agricultural fields and in prairie conservation corridors within agricultural ecosystems; the main goal is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increased soil carbon sequestration by restoring soil microbial communities.

Lecture Topics: Toward Belowground Restoration: Understanding the effects of land management on soil microbial communities in a tallgrass prairie

Contact: kathryn.docherty@wmich.edu


Laiyin Zhu is an assistant professor of Geography, Environment, and Tourism at WMU. His research focuses on extreme weather and climate change, hydro-climatology, and weather disaster risk analysis. His teachings include courses such as Climate Change: Past, Present, & Future,  World Ecology Problems, Data Analysis in Climate Science, and Extreme Weather under Changing Climate. Zhu uses climate data and different models to understand the mechanisms and impacts of extreme weather/climate events. Much of his past work involved observing variations of hurricane precipitation and flooding, seasonal forecast and long-term prediction of hurricane activity, modeling hurricane power outages, agent-based models of hurricane mitigation, and assessment of future biofuel adaptations. 

Lecture/Presentation Topics: Hurricanes and Climate Change; Climate Change and Mitigation
Contact: laiyin.zhu@wmich.edu


Dr. Lei Meng is an associate professor of Geography, Environment and Tourism at WMU and a physical geographer who received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M, 2009. He has research interests and expertise in climate variability and climate change as well as land-atmosphere interactions and lake-effect snow. He uses the Community Earth System Model to investigate hydrological and biogeochemical processes that are interactive with climate.

Lecture Topics: Land-Atmosphere Interactions; Lake-effect Snowfall and Teleconnections

Contact: lei.meng@wmich.edu


Dr. Lynne Heasley is an environmental historian and professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at WMU. Her research focuses on the Great Lakes, including how the twinned biodiversity and climate crises are reshaping the region’s ecological, political, and binational relationships. Making sense of complex eco-cultural relationships, and a concern for community well-being, are both characteristics of her writing. Dr. Heasley’s new book, The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes (MSU Press, 2021), foregrounds the St. Clair River, a critical binational connecting water for lake sturgeon and myriad aquatic lives, and a maritime corridor with a long history of petrochemical and other extractive or polluting industries.

Contact: lynne.heasley@wmich.edu


Dr. Mariam Konaté is an associate professor of IIAS at WMU. She is interested in exploring the invaluable insights that can be gained when we include a gendered and intersectional perspective in the climate change and environmental justice discourse, analysis, policy-making, and activism. Konaté is doing so through the teachings of the course Gender and Environmental Justice: A Global Perspective.

Contact: mariam.konate@wmich.edu


Dr. Sue Caulfield is a professor of Interdisciplinary Health Programs at WMU. Dr. Caulfield teaches in both the Integrative Holistic Health and Wellness program and the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences program. As well as Choices in Global Living, Introduction to Holistic Health, and Research in Health and Human Services. She also teaches Research Practicum I and Research Practicum II, where she works with undergraduate students to develop research skills in hands-on research. The primary research project for 2017-18 and 2018-19 is the relationship between smartphone usage and college students’ behavior and perceptions.

Lecture Topics: Plastic; plastic and the ocean 

Contact: sue.caulfield@wmich.edu


Dr. Steve Bertman is a professor in the Institute of Environment and Sustainability at WMU. Dr. Bertman is investigating the impact of changing climate on the biogenic emissions of VOC from Michigan's northern forests. He is also interested in looking at the impact of climate change on the brewing industry. His teachings include environmental courses like Climate Challenges and Solutions and Sustainable Agriculture.

Lecture Topics: Climate Change Impact on Brewing; Why are electric vehicles the way of the future and what should you do about it? 

Contact: Steven.bertman@wmich.edu


Dr. Ron Kramer is a professor of Sociology and former Director of the Criminal Justice Program at WMU. He explores climate change from a criminological perspective. Kramer is the co-author of "Crimes of the American Nuclear State: At Home and Abroad" (Northeastern University Press, 1998), "State-Corporate Crime: Wrongdoing at the Intersection of Business and Government" (Rutgers University Press, 2006), and co-editor of "State Crime in the Global Age" (Willan Press, 2010). His new book, "Carbon Criminals, Climate Crimes", analyzes climate change from a state-corporate crime perspective. Dr. Kramer also covers climate crimes teaching the course Corporate and Government Crime.

Lecture Topics: Carbon Criminals, Climate Crimes; Climate Change from a Criminological Perspective

Contact: ronald.kramer@wmich.edu


Dr. Todd Kuchta is an associate professor of English at WMU with a Ph.D. in English from Indiana University. He is interested in researching postcolonial literature as it relates to climate change.

Contact: todd.kuchta@wmich.edu


Jeff Spoelstra is the Director of the Office for Sustainability within Academic Affairs at WMU. As such, he helps students to implement sustainability and climate change University-wide. Students pay an annual "fee" that provides funding for Office operation (base funding), student "green jobs", and on-campus projects and grants. This unique funding provides students with several physical and digital platforms they can use to pursue their ideas that have the potential to advance campus sustainability across research, teaching, facilities, administration, in-reach, and outreach. Students fix bikes, rent bikes, collect food waste for composting, grow food, conduct research, host meetings, and the list goes on. This has infused sustainability and climate change content across the curriculum (research and teaching) and helps us strengthen ties with local community to advance town/gown climate-related initiatives, plans, and projects. Students research, quantify, record, and document sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions data and publicly report using tools unique to the higher education sector.

Contact: jeffrey.spoelstra@wmich.edu


Dr. Lisa DeChano-Cook is an associate professor of Geography, Environment, and Tourism at WMU with a Ph.D. in Environmental Geography from Texas State University. She has conducted climate change research in terms of environmental effects on and from sports as well as the broad category of environmental geography with emphases on geomorphology, natural hazard, and perception. Also, teaching courses such as Physical Geography, Disasters and Risk Management, Environmental Impact Assessment, and Disasters Management.

Lecture Topics: Climate Change and Sports

Contact: lisa.dechano@wmich.edu


Jill Braman is an environmental RSO and the co-leader of WMU Citizens Climate Lobby- a student organization that lobbies Congress for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which would put a price on carbon.  

Contact: jill.l.ackerman@wmich.edu


Dr. Cybelle Shattuck is a professor in the Institute of Environment and Sustainability at WMU, studying the role of religion in promoting responses to climate change and factors that affect faith-based climate action. She is also secretary for Hope for Creation, a grassroots interfaith group that supports climate action among individuals and congregations in the Kalamazoo area. Shattuck also teaches a course on Environmental Justice that addresses Climate Justice issues. 

Lecture Topics: Faith-based Climate Action

Contact: cybelle.shattuck@wmich.edu