The Wildlife Society thanks the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute for its support as a Platinum Sponsor!

Do NOT miss these two amazing speakers kick off this year’s conference at the Opening Plenary!


Change the Climate: The Importance of Diversity
Tuesday, November 2, 12-2 p.m. EDT


Dan Riskin

Biologist, TV Host, and Author



Caesar Kleberg Keynote Address: Diverse groups can feel less comfortable, but they get better results

Dan Riskin is a biologist, science journalist, and author. He is best known as the former host of Monsters Inside Me on Animal Planet, and co-host of Daily Planet on Discovery Canada. Dan was originally a bat biologist, focused on the biomechanics of locomotion, but he left academics a decade ago to become a full-time science communicator. Dan is a frequent guest for several news outlets, including CTV (Canada) and CNN, and has appeared as a guest on a wide range of entertainment programs, including The Tonight Show, The Late Late Show, and Dr. Oz. Dan’s book Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You was a Canadian bestseller. He lives in Toronto with his partner and their three wonderful kids. For decades, biologists have understood that diversity makes ecosystems more productive and more resilient to perturbations. But biologists as a group are far less diverse than they could be. Many of the reasons for this are historical and economic, but another obstacle to diversity has been a cognitive one: When people work in diverse groups – with people from different backgrounds from their own – they sometimes feel less successful. The work itself feels like more of a slog, and workers end up less sure of the final product. Paradoxically, however, their work, on average, is empirically better than that from more homogenous groups, who feel like the work is less challenging and thus feel more successful. This disconnect is an example of the more general phenomenon whereby humans often do their best work when they’re uncomfortable. For biologists, the ongoing process of diversifying our membership is an ethical responsibility. And while it might feel hard sometimes, it can make us more productive, just like the diverse ecosystems we study.


Carolyn Finney

Storyteller, author, cultural geographer and environmentalist




The N Word: Nature, Revisited (an imagined conversation with John Muir)

Carolyn Finney, PhD is a storyteller, author and a cultural geographer who is deeply interested in issues related to identity, difference, creativity, and resilience.The aim of her work is to develop greater cultural competency within environmental organizations and institutions, challenge media outlets on their representation of difference, and increase awareness of how privilege shapes who gets to speak to environmental issues and determine policy and action. Carolyn is grounded in both artistic and intellectual ways of knowing – she pursed an acting career for eleven years, but five years of backpacking trips through Africa and Asia, and living in Nepal changed the course of her life. Motivated by these experiences, Carolyn returned to school after a 15-year absence to complete a B.A., M.A. (both of these degrees focused on gender and environmental issues in Kenya and Nepal, respectively) and Ph.D. (which focused on African Americans and environmental issues in the U.S.) She has been a Fulbright Scholar, a Canon National Parks Science Scholar and received a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Environmental Studies.  Carolyn has worked with the media in various capacities including the Tavis Smiley Show, MSNBC, & Vice News Tonight; wrote Op-Eds for Outside Magazine & Newsweek; was a guest editor & contributor for a special section on Race & the National Parks in Orion Magazine; participated in a roundtable conversation with REI and The Atlantic; interviewed with various media outlets including NPR, Sierra Club, Boston Globe & National Geographic; and even filmed a commercial for Toyota that highlighted the importance of African Americans getting out into Nature. Along with public speaking, writing, consulting and teaching (she has held positions at Wellesley College, the University of California, Berkeley & the University of Kentucky), she served on the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board for eight years which assists the National Park Service in engaging in relations of reciprocity with diverse communities.  Her first book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors was released in 2014 (UNC Press). Recent publications include “The Space Between the Words” (Harvard Design Journal Spring 2018), “A Thousand Oceans” (Geographical Research, Wiley Pub., Fall 2019) “This Moment” (River Rail: Occupy Colby Fall 2019), Self-Evident: Reflections on the Invisibility of Black Bodies in Environmental Histories (BESIDE Magazine, Montreal Spring 2020), and The Perils of Being Black in Public: We are all Christian Cooper and George Floyd (The Guardian, June 3rd 2020). She is currently working on a performance piece about John Muir (The N Word: Nature Revisited) as part of a Mellon residency at the New York Botanical Gardens (summer of 2021) and is the new columnist at the Earth Island Journal. She is also an artist-in-residence and the Environmental Studies Professor of Practice in the Franklin Environmental Center at Middlebury College.

*The opening plenary will be broadcast live on Tuesday, November 2, then available for viewing on-demand for the duration of the conference. The schedule of sessions, events and activities, including dates and times, are subject to change.

Please review our guidelines for professional behavior at the conference