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A Second Silent Spring

Recorded on: October 24th, 2014

Air Date: October 27th, 2014

We have been hearing about the hazards of chemical contaminants in the environment since Rachel Carson presented her argument against DDT in her book Silent Spring. Although chemical companies opposed her views, the environmental movement she inspired has led to policy changes. More than half a century later, Professor Tyrone B. Hayes — a biologist and professor of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley — faces similar opposition.

In his City Club presentation, Hayes will talk about chemical contaminants in the environment and their role in global amphibian declines and in the health of impacted communities. His research findings indicate that exposure to a commonly-used herbicide (atrazine is sold under a variety of trade names) results in hermaphroditism in frogs. His research and his public activism have brought national attention and stirred controversy in academia and beyond.

In an article entitled “A Valuable Reputation” (February 10, 2014), The New Yorker stated: “Hayes has devoted the past fifteen years to studying atrazine, and during that time scientists around the world have expanded on his findings, suggesting that the herbicide is associated with birth defects in humans as well as in animals.”

In “The Frog of War” (January/February 2012), Mother Jones magazine pointed out that “most scientists, upon discovering that trace amounts of one of the nation's top-selling herbicides cause gender-bending abnormalities in frogs, would have been content to publish their results and let the regulators and manufacturers fight it out.” That is not Hayes’s style.

He travels and lectures extensively, and sometimes uses the language of rap and other unconventional communication techniques to convey his message to lay people. Among his honors is being named an "Emerging Explorer" by the National Geographic Society.

During his visit to Eugene, he will also present the keynote lecture at the 2014-2015 Convocation of the University of Oregon’s Environmental Studies Department. Over the weekend, he will join a group of community members, academics, officials, students, and local activists for a day of conversation about herbicides, citizen science, and public action.

After earning his undergraduate degree at Harvard, Hayes earned his PhD in integrative biology at UC–Berkley where he has been a professor for the past 20 years.

copyright, 2014 KLCC