Silent Spring Series: Global Climate Change and Emerging Infectious Disease

Date & Time

Wed, 03/06/2013
5:30-7 pm


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Environmental changes can have profound impacts on the spread of infectious diseases. One environmental change that cannot be ignored is global warming. A primary lesson from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is that we should consider the unintended or unanticipated consequences of changes — whether or not they are manmade.

Global climate variation has influenced humans from the dawn of civilization through the present. However, within the last century human activities have exerted a powerful influence that has altered our global climate. These changes can make it difficult for organisms to survive in the regions they now inhabit and thus cause shifts in the natural habitats of animals and plants. In addition to larger organisms, climate change also affects the microbes that determine the health and disease of animals, humans, and the environment. Climate change influences the emergence and spread of many infectious diseases. For example, changes in weather patterns can influence the population of rodents and other animal hosts that can spread disease to humans. Changes in rainfall can influence the availability of clean water and food supplies, thereby increasing the incidence of diseases transmitted via human and animal wastes. Changes in temperature and rainfall also influence the incidence of vector borne diseases, including diseases spread by mosquitoes such as malaria, dengue, and yellow fever.

This is the fourth of a series of public events organized by the Ethics Center and six regional colleges and universities to mark the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring by bringing the public, scientists and university students together to explore how science can best serve society.


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Stanley Maloy
San Diego State University

Professor Maloy obtained an MS in Microbiology from California State University, Long Beach, followed by a PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of California at Irvine. After a postdoctoral fellowship in Microbial Genetics at the University of Utah, he accepted a faculty position at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) where he progressed from Assistant Professor to Professor of Microbiology. While at UIUC, he served as Director of the University of Illinois Biotechnology Center. In 2002 Maloy moved to San Diego State University as founding Director of the Center for Microbial Sciences. In 2006 he became Dean of the College of Sciences at San Diego State University.

From 2004-2007 Professor Maloy served as President-Elect, President, then Past-President of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). He currently chairs the ASM committee on communicating science to the public, and has served as chair of NIH Study Sections and as a grant reviewer for the NIH, NSF, USDA, NAS, AHA, and international funding agencies. He has participated on many federal advisory groups, and testified before the House Appropriations Committee about federal funding for scientific research. Maloy has consulted with large and small companies, including serving on several Scientific Advisory Boards and as Chief Scientific Officer. He currently chairs the Scientific Advisory Board of Vaxiion Therapeutics Inc. Maloy has organized numerous international courses and conferences in the US, Europe, Latin America, and Asia and is the author of several books including a widely used textbook, and has been honored by several teaching awards.

Professor Maloy has been interested in Scientific Ethics for many years. While at UIUC he started a graduate course on research ethics, participated in training programs in research ethics at the University of Indiana, and served on several advisory panels for the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity.

Maloy’s research focuses on bacterial and phage genetics and physiology, the evolution of infectious diseases, and the development of new antibiotics and vaccines.

Alan Sweedler (Moderator)
San Diego State University

Professor Sweedler is the Assistant Vice President for International Programs at San Diego State University, where he also is a Professor of Physics and Director of Environmental Sciences and the Center for Energy Studies.

Professor Sweedler has been a leader in developing energy policy and researching energy issues for over 30 years. He has been a major participant in the development of regional energy plans for the greater San Diego Region and was a founding Board member and Chair of the San Diego Regional Energy office, now the California Center for Sustainable Energy. He is currently on the Board of Directors of Clean Tech San Diego and the Center for Regional Sustainability at San Diego State University, and is Co-Director of the California Energy Commission’s Energy Innovation Small Grants Program.

Professor Sweedler was selected as one of two nationally chosen Congressional Science Fellows by the American Physical Society in 1985 and served in the office of Senator Jeff Bingaman (D N.M) for one year. Dr. Sweedler has conducted basic research in the areas of superconductivity at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and in thin-film photovolatics at SDSU. In recent years he has focused on the environmental impacts of energy use, climate change and international security, as well as the development of renewable energy technologies in the greater San Diego region.

Professor Sweedler is working on new educational programs in climate change, sustainability and renewable energy and the connection between water and energy use. He has co-edited four books, written 10 book chapters and published over sixty journal articles in energy science and international security. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the City University of New York and PhD in physics from the University of California, San Diego.