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Hands Off or Hands On? Perspectives on Managing Nature

Wed March 17th 2021, 2:00pm
Hands Off or Hands On? Perspectives on Managing Nature

Should we let wild nature run its course within a nature preserve, or should we intervene to guide it in directions we deem beneficial? There is a long and deeply rooted set of assumptions in the United States that the purpose of a national park or wilderness area is to preserve nature in a primeval state. And many of us—whether backpacking in Yosemite or enjoying one of our many local parks here in the Bay Area—continue to assume that this is what we are seeing. Yet appearances can be deceptive, and there is now a large body of research in ecology and anthropology that suggests that the distinction between natural and human-made is rarely so clear-cut. In reality, we must often choose among different kinds of human-influenced scenarios when stewarding a landscape. We will look at a couple different case studies here in California: the hidden history of Native American land management practices that helped shape some of the landscapes we see today, and the difficult choices we now face confronting mega-wildfires in the Sierra Nevada. How might we rethink our sense of connection to these landscapes that are never exclusively “natural?”


Jeffrey Schwegman, PhD
Assistant Dean for Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University

Dr. Jeff Schwegman oversees a wide range of initiatives to increase student and public engagement in these fields, including designing introductory courses for freshmen and non-humanities majors, developing career exploration resources for non-STEM students, and promoting public-facing scholarship from the Stanford faculty. Prior to this role, he taught as a lecturer in Stanford’s Thinking Matters and IHUM programs and held a research postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. He has a PhD in history from Princeton University (2008), where he studied the development of modern science education during the eighteenth-century French Enlightenment. Outside work, he volunteers as a docent at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and enjoys taking wildlife photography. This talk draws from an undergraduate course he is developing on “Wilderness: History, Biology, and Ethics.”





Color headshot of Jorge Ramos

Jorge Ramos, PhD
Associate Director for Environmental Education, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Stanford University

Jorge oversees the education program at Jasper Ridge that can amount to more than 8,000 educational and outreach visits a year by people from very diverse ages, interests, careers and backgrounds. He also co-teaches the Ecology and Natural History of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (EARTHSYS 105A) during the winter and spring quarters that immerses students in the scientific basis of ecological research in the context of a field station and multidisciplinary environmental education. Jorge is an accomplished educator and scientist with deep knowledge of freshwater and coastal wetland ecosystems, carbon cycling, environmental education and climate change science communication. After completing this PhD, Jorge worked at Conservation International in Washington DC, where he was the manager of the Blue Climate team in the Center for Oceans, a role in which he helped develop, implement, and manage coastal community conservation projects and teams worldwide.