Resilience, Storytelling Highlight National Geographic-UVA Partnership

Resilience, Storytelling Highlight National Geographic-UVA Partnership

The University of Virginia and the National Geographic Society today and Saturday are sponsoring a series of talks and presentations for the community, featuring prominent National Geographic explorers and UVA faculty members.

The event, “National Geographic on Campus,” kicked off Thursday night at the Paramount Theater as National Geographic photographer Jodi Cobb shared her work and world-travel experiences with attendees.

Today, a daylong symposium is featuring science, storytelling and panel discussions, exploring the topic of resilience – an area of focus at the University, which two years ago established the UVA Environmental Resilience Institute. Topics will address global water issues involving waterways, the creation of resilient cities to support growing populations, and cultural resilience, including the representation of race.

There also will be arts performances by EcoSono, a non-profit environmental arts organization.

“The day’s programing is designed to inspire big ideas and to encourage discussion of the critical social and environmental challenges we face, from the Grounds to the globe,” said program organizer Karen McGlathery, a professor of environmental sciences and director of the Environmental Resilience Institute. “If we are to connect research with action and empower the next generation, we need to tell our stories – in words, in pictures, in sounds – to inspire people to make informed decisions that will lead to a better future.”

On Saturday, UVA students will engage in interactive hands-on communications workshops, where they will develop photography and investigative reporting skills and be introduced to virtual reality storytelling and filmmaking, among other skill sets. These workshops will be led by UVA faculty members and National Geographic scientists, storytellers, photographers and educators.

“This partnership is a great opportunity to bring together the public reach and creative, high-impact platforms of a national brand – National Geographic – together with the deep research and broad engagement of our premier public research university,” said Louis Nelson, vice provost for academic outreach, who worked for months with National Geographic in planning the activities.

Regarding resilience, the focus of today’s activities, environmental sciences professor Deborah Lawrence said, “Climate change is already affecting the water, food and energy needed to support our growing cities. Resilience means more than adapting to a changing climate; it also means using foresight and imagination to limit the amount of stress civilization will face.

“Mitigate, adapt, transform. To me, that is the essence of resilience. Fortunately, we still have time to put ourselves on a better climate path. As we develop more resilient cities, we bend the curve, creating not only the cities we want, but the kind of society we want, and the planet we need.”

Lawrence is participating on a panel discussing resilient cities for the 21st century.

Nelson noted that the UVA-National Geographic partnership offers members of both organizations an opportunity to learn firsthand about shared research interests and methodologies and communications techniques.

“Our hope for students is that they will learn some really specific content or technique that becomes a critical component of their intellectual and scholarly toolkit,” he said, “and that they will be inspired to pour themselves into their passions and learn to communicate to broad audiences in ways that inspire commitment to engaging the critical issues facing our planet and its people.”

Charles Scaife, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental sciences who is volunteering with event activities, said the collaboration is valuable to students and, ultimately, the general public.

“Learning how I, as an environmental scientist, can best communicate my research starts with engaging people, whether they’re from my research field, my campus community, other disciplines, or are my representatives in government,” he said. “This event features discussions and workshops that bridge disciplines, communities and cultures.”

For the schedule, click here.

Media Contact

Fariss Samarrai

University News Associate Office of University Communications