Gustavus students have an opportunity to experience the wonders of nature right on the Gustavus campus. This year’s Linnaeus Symposium features the topic “Global Trees: Releaf-Relief.” The conference will take place on Wednesday, April 22, hosting a mélange of exciting speakers, activities and art work.
“The whole point is to get people exposed to nature,” said Bob Dunlap, an Arboretum naturalist specializing in birds and a 2008 graduate of Gustavus.
This conference is held biennially and draws attention to the importance of all nature, as well as the beautiful surroundings that can be found right on campus. “Sometimes I will talk to [first-years] or even other students who really have no idea what the arboretum is,” said Dunlap. This conference is a chance to change that.
While the Linnaeus Symposium may not be as well recognized as conferences like Nobel or MAYDAY!, it is attracting a comparable amount of expertise. Kicking off the presentation portion of the symposium will be a lecture by Dr. Patrick Hossay, a Political Science professor at Richard Stockton College. The presentation at 2:30 p.m. in Alumni Hall is entitled “Can Trees Save Us.” It will discuss how trees relate to humans and whether or not they can save us from our current environmental issues.
The keynote address, titled “Life in the Treetops,” will be given by Dr. Margaret Lowmen at 7:30 p.m. in Alumni Hall. Lowmen is a biologist and ecologist who conducted extensive research in various rainforest canopies.
Currently one of the leading authorities on rainforest canopies, she will speak to students about the importance of saving the rainforests and how to go about it.
Although the Linnaeus Symposium is still in its “fledgling years, it is really intellectual. [There will be] a lot of good discussion and good thinkers,” said Dunlap.
The arts are also an important part of this conference. The artwork of Gail Speckman will be on display in the Interpretive Center throughout the week. Speckman, a 1973 graduate of Gustavus, is a national award-winning watercolor artist, known specifically for her portrayals of trees and landscapes. She has garnered special notice for her technique of the “wet into wet” watercolor. She will be teaching workshops at Gustavus on Monday, April 20 and Tuesday, April 21, and people of all skill levels are invited to participate.
A “tree-dance” has also been incorporated into the program. It is choreographed and will be performed by Michele Rusinko, professor of theatre and dance and the head of the Dance Department at Gustavus, and it is set to take place on the hill outside of Old Main at 5:00 p.m.
How are students actually supposed to get out into nature? A series of nature and bird watching walks have been set up to take place in the arboretum. These walks, led by Dunlap, will begin at 3:45 p.m. and will continue until dinnertime. “I hope to just get people out. It’s a perfect time because it is right between classes and dinner,” said Dunlap.
Before the keynote address, a special dinner has been added to the program, so nature enthusiasts can gather and enjoy company as well as an interesting array of food. “Most of the ingredients [in the food] will come from trees,” said Dunlap. Reservations for the dinner must be made in advance.
The Linnaeus Symposium gives Gustavus students a great chance to become educated about nature, learn how to give back and get outdoors. “It would be great if people could get to even just one hour of this,” said Dunlap.