'Back to the Future: Understanding the Anthropocene'

What value does living in the Anthropocene—a distinct era in geologic time, marked by the emergence of humans as a dominant planetary force—have in considering the global environmental changes that humans are causing? Luther professor Laura Peterson will discuss what living in the Anthropocene means in both the scientific community and among the broader public.

The lecture, titled "Back to the Future: Understanding the Anthropocene," will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, in the Recital Hall of the Center for Faith and Life on the Luther campus. A reception will follow in Qualley Lounge.

Both the lecture and the reception are open to the public with no charge for admission.     

The lecture will address this year's Paideia Texts and Issues theme, "Impermanence: Embracing Change." Lessons from the geologic past make it clear that change has been a constant feature of Earth history. In order to understand the range of conditions the Earth has experienced throughout its 4.6 billion year history, Peterson explains how scientists can either add predictive power to our scientific understanding of future climate and environmental change, or address the ways in which life's influence on the global environment has evolved throughout time.

Peterson has been a professor of environmental studies at Luther since 2008 and serves as a member of the chemistry department. With an interest in climate science and the history of the Earth system, her course topics include environmental geology, introduction to geographic information systems, and the evolution of Earth as a habitable planet. She also teaches field geology courses as part of Luther's Earth and Environment in Italy study abroad program.

With a research background in paleoclimatology and paleoceanography, her research generates records of past changes in ocean temperature in order to understand how the climate system has changed over the last several million years. This provides one insight into current and future climate behavior under anthropogenic influence. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Peterson and student researches are currently working to generate a six million year long record of sea surface temperature change in the southwest Pacific Ocean.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,400, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.