Ashland University’s 2015-16 Environmental Lecture Series to Focus on Natural History and Current Issues ‘In Our Own Backyard’

Ashland University’s 2015-16 Environmental Lecture Series to Focus on Natural History and Current Issues ‘In Our Own Backyard’
Steve McKee and a purple fringed orchid.

9/3/15 ASHLAND, Ohio – The first event in Ashland University’s Environmental Lecture Series for 2015-16 will be a presentation by Steve McKee, retired director of the Richland County Park District. McKee played a leading role in establishment of the Richland B&O trail and the Gorman Nature Center.

Reports are that his retirement appears to sustain his active and central role in environmental education and outreach, with a core focus on north-central Ohio. McKee will speak on “A Natural History of our Own Backyard.”

The lecture will be held Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the Ronk Lecture Hall of the Schar College of Education. This event is free and open to the public.

The goal of the “In Our Own Backyard” series this year will be to explore examples of local natural history and ecology and make connections to issues, questions and plans for the future.

“There might be a message about land-use priorities for sustaining what we have, insights about special habitats, or highlights about the less common species that do well in our part of Ohio,” said Dr. Patricia Saunders, associate professor of biology and director of AU’s Environmental Science Program.

“Here, we define ‘local’ as Ashland and Richland counties in particular and north-central Ohio in general. This part of Ohio represents a unique intersection of geological and biological histories, so our landscape and the wildlife that live here are quite rich,” Saunders said. “This year's environmental lecture series includes wetland and upland examples that offer different perspectives on what makes our own backyard so special.”

The Environmental Lecture Series was established at Ashland University after the Environmental Science program was implemented in 1991-92. The lecture series was designed to support the Environmental Science program by allowing students, faculty and members of North Central Ohio communities to interact with leaders in environmental science and policy. Over the years, the lecture series has generated significant campus and community involvement and support. Recent lectures are archived for viewing at

Current support for the lecture series is provided by a grant from the Lubrizol Foundation and additional support from Ashland University. Past series have been supported by AU and grants from the GTE Foundation and the Fran and Warren Rupp Foundation.

Other events set for this year’s Environmental Lecture Series include:

-- a Nov. 5 lecture by Professor Merrill Tawse from the Ashland University Department of Biology and the Environmental Science Program. He will speak on “Bats in our Backyard: A Mohican Story.” This lecture will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Ronk Lecture Hall of the Schar College of Education.

-- In spring of 2016, Greg Lipps will speak about “Conservation and Recovery of the Eastern Hellbender.” Lipps is a Herpetological and GIS Consultant and the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Coordinator with the Ohio Biodiversity Conservation Partnership, The Ohio State University.

-- The final presenter will be Rick Gardner, who is Chief Botanist for the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Gardner will share his botanical perspective on “Ohio's natural heritage, with a focus on Ashland and Richland Counties."

Date and locations for the spring talks will be announced, and updated information on the series will be available at

In addition to the “In Our Own Backyard” series, this year the Environmental Science Program is also co-sponsoring the inaugural event in Ashland University’s Symposium Against Indifference: Environmental Sustainability, organized by Ashland University’s College of Arts and Sciences. On Monday, Sept. 28, Jenita McGowan, Chief of Sustainability for the City of Cleveland, will speak on "Building a Green City on a Blue Lake." This event will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Trustee's Room of Myers Convocation Center.

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###