Robust lineup of speakers supports transition to virtual Earth Day conference

earthday logo with four different speakers

A wide range of live sessions as well as a number of prerecorded sessions will set the stage for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Nelson Institute’s virtual Earth Day Conference on Monday, April 20, 2020 from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The conference titled, Earth Day@50: Aspiring for Sustainability, Striving for Justice, Crafting the Planet will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by highlighting the confluence between the traditional conservation and the new, ecological innovations taking place in areas such as genetics and engineering.

These prerecorded breakout sessions from speakers who will discuss topics that leverage the best aspects of the past environmental movements while incorporating an increased sense of social justice. While these sessions will be prerecorded, there will also be ample opportunity for live engagement through a discussion board and a share your story feature on the website.

The breakout sessions will include Cutting-Edge Conservation, which will explore innovative ecological engineering and showcase why technology holds the key to preserving habitats and wildlife. Speakers will include Zuzana Burivalova, an assistant professor with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at UW-Madison, Francisco Pelegri, a professor in the Department of Genetics at UW-Madison, and Zhou Zhang, an assistant professor in Biological Systems Engineering at UW-Madison.

Food and Justice for All: The Environmental and Societal Challenges of Food Justice, will also be featured as a breakout session, highlighting the ways in which environmental and societal challenges impact food justice. This session will be led by Monica White, an associate professor of environmental justice at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Jennifer Gaddis, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Society and Community Studies, Mariaelena Huambachano, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Society and Community Studies at UW-Madison and the 4W Director of Biodiversity Protection and Indigeneity, as well as Sarah Rios, an assistant professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at UW-Madison.

Additionally, the conference will feature the breakout session, Power to the People: Exploring the Importance of Energy Justice, which will highlight the positive aspects to clean energy and showcase why energy solutions rooted in democratic, equitable processes are key to the future of sustainability. Speakers will include Mary Blanchard, the associate director of the Wisconsin Energy Institute, Heather Allen, the interim executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, and Antonio Butts, the executive director of Walnut Way.

Sustainable Wildlife Management, will also be a breakout session highlight with speakers discussing various methods for wildlife management ranging from traditional ecological knowledge and hunting to population dynamics and competition. Speakers will include Tim Van Deelen, the Beers-Bascom Professor in Conservation within the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and chair of the Nelson Institute Environmental Conservation Professional Master’s Program, Emily Lehl, the R3 coordinator for the Bureau of Law Enforcement at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Anne Lacy, the crane research coordinator at the International Crane Foundation, and Michael Waasegiizhig Price, a traditional ecological knowledge specialist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

New this year, the Nelson Institute will also be hosting a conference within a conference, as the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council and Evolution Marketing, LLC lead the virtual workshop, Tactics and Tools for Carbon Strategy and Management. This conference will feature two prerecorded sessions highlighting the methods businesses are using to manage, reduce, and offset their carbon footprints.

“We are fortunate to have a range of presenters and programming that will make for a robust and interactive conference,” said conference coordinator and Nelson Institute assistant director of Community Engagement & Alumni Relations, Emily Reynolds. “We invite you to join us for this exciting anniversary celebration as we work together to craft a future filled with hope, positivity, and intentionality.”

To view the complete conference program and register, visit