Harry Greene

28 weeks

THEMES: Challenges & Opportunities, Education  |  WORKSHOP: Natural History & Research

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Biography

Harry Greene

After receiving a B.A. from Texas Wesleyan College Harry Greene served three years as an army medic, then earned a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, taught at UC Berkeley for two decades, and moved to Cornell in 1999. He has taught natural history of the vertebrates, non-majors intro bio, herpetology, desert ecology, and graduate field ecology, and received campus-wide teaching awards at Berkeley and Cornell as well as the Edward Osborne Naturalist Wilson Award. After decades of studying the ecology, evolution, and conservation of predators in many parts of the world, he recently became one himself, an experience that has profoundly influenced how I think about the meaning and fate of nature. His first book, Snakes: the Evolution of Mystery in Nature, won a PEN Literary Award and made the New York Times’ “100 Most Notable Books,” and his next one, Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art, is nearing completion.

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Transcript

When I moved to Cornell 11 years ago, I switched to teaching intro bio. I was absolutely stunned when I got there to see that the course I was supposed to teach one of two semesters of, over the course of two semesters – that's 28 weeks, consisted of 23 weeks of cell and molecular biology, five weeks of evolution and genetics, no ecology, no behavior, no conservation biology and no biodiversity. So I balked. Actually I refused to teach the course I had been hired to teach, and my chair backed me up. There followed a year-long standoff in which I was eventually given one of the two semesters and asked, "How do you think biology should be split up?"

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