A decade of Food for Thought

Mac lecture series’ 10th season focuses on natural history

By Jim Hynes

The Macdonald Campus’ Food for Thought lecture series has gone back to its roots for its tenth season – no pun intended.

OK, pun sort of intended. Roots, agriculture…get it?

The series, which organizer Don Smith says was originally created to focus on important environmental and agricultural issues, branched out (no pun intended) over the years to include talks on everything from philosophy to international law, nanotechnology to the cosmos, and, of course, food, from the functional to the gastronomic.

“Ten years ago the Dean at the time asked me to do it and I said OK,” said Smith, James McGill Professor in the Plant Science Department and Director of both the Green Crop Strategic Research Network and the McGill Network for Innovation in Biofuels and Bioproducts.

“She knew I had a broad interest in big picture agriculture, where it’s going, that sort of thing. The idea at first was that this would represent our Faculty and at the same time build links between our campus and the surrounding community. I think it still does a good job of that.

“The lectures usually have a lot to do with things related to agriculture, but not always,” Smith said. “We don’t limit ourselves to that. For instance one year it was just Big Ideas, big and interesting concepts that were developing through research at that time. We ran one on energy a few years ago when gas prices were high. That included biofuels, which obviously impacted agriculture, but it doesn’t have to be about agriculture.”

This year’s series, with the unofficial title of Life on Planet Earth, brings together experts whose research takes them from the high Arctic to the deep forests, and from the treetops to the soil below. All of them are Mac professors.

“Because it’s our tenth year, we thought we’d bring it back to all the interesting natural history stuff that’s going on at Mac, the neat stuff our people are working on,” Smith said.

This year’s crop (pun intended) of speakers includes Natural Resource Sciences professors David Bird (on the American Kestrel), Jim Fyles (on trees and the Morgan Arboreteum), Lyle Whyte (on microbial life and Mars analogue sites in the Canadian High Arctic), Murray Humphries (on useless knowledge and essential perspectives in studying the natural history of wildlife), and Chris Buddle and Terry Wheeler (on insects and spiders and global change). Plant Sciences professor Suha Jabaji will speak about The Magic and Marvels of Mushrooms: Fungi — The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

The lectures take place every second Tuesday from Sept. 14 to Nov. 23 in the Macdonald Campus’ Raymond Building. For more information visit: http://www.mcgill.ca/macdonald/events/fft/ or call 514-398-7707.