Britt Wray will be speaking at the THE CALGARY INSTITUTE FOR THE HUMANITIES – Oct 16, 12pm, BI 561.
(Re)born to be wild? De-extinction and the issues it creates
In this talk, Britt Wray will explore the scientific movement known as de-extinction, where researchers are trying to make proxies of extinct species, like the woolly mammoth, gastric brooding frog and passenger pigeon “come back to life” using advanced biotechnologies and breeding techniques. But why are they doing this, and what ethical, environmental, legal and social issues does it create? Wray wants to increase the amount of critical public engagement around this seemingly quixotic idea, because it will affect our ecosystems, which affects us all.
Britt Wray is a science broadcaster and writer working in podcasting, interactive documentary, and writing. She is co-host of the BBC podcast Tomorrow’s World, which explores the future of science and technology, and is currently completing a PhD at the University of Copenhagen, where she has been studying science communication with a focus on synthetic biology. Wray is the creator of a forthcoming interactive documentary series produced by the National Film Board of Canada about personal genomics and gene editing, and is the creator of the interactive audio archive www.aurator.org which features experts’ audio diaries about synthetic biology. Wray’s first book, called Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics and Risks of De-Extinction is about a new scientific movement that aims to bring extinct species “back to life” as well as help endangered species on the brink (published in October 2017 by Greystone Books in partnership with the David Suzuki Institute). Wray’s narrative productions have been broadcast on several radio shows for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (Ideas, Spark, Radio 3) and New York Public Radio (Studio 360) as well as the Radiotopia network’s Love and Radio. She has been a Visiting Scholar at the NYU Arthur L. Carter Institute for Journalism and Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Genomics, Bioinformatics and the Climate Crisis
Since the 1970s, governments and industry have promoted the coding and manipulation of DNA as an avenue to fuel, feed and heal the world. The mapping of the human genome in 2003 stimulated the development of other large-scale DNA-sequencing projects for bacteria, plants, and mammals. With the assistance of computer technology and bioinformatics, large scale genomic consortium produce DNA data at impressive rates, making promissory claims about the benefits of this data to inform and improve environment, health and industry. Critics of these applications raise concerns about the unfulfilled promises, unacknowledged uncertainties and unacceptable risks of such ‘techno-fixes’. Public resistance to genetic and genomic applications for environmental issues- voiced through terms such as Frankenforests – can lead to undone and possibly even forbidden science. In many regards, scientific experimentation, industry application and civil society commentary have run ahead of analysis in the environmental humanities. This leaves gaps in our understanding of the social, ethical and legal implications of biotechnology applications for environmental issues.
The group will meet monthly from September 2017 to March 2018 to discuss published research, present work in progress and host guest speakers. Key themes for organizing discussions and readings include: critical studies of climate change; the social history of DNA; reimagining diversity and kinship in a genomics age; and critical analysis of bioinformatics (DNA as data). This working group will identify and explore gaps in existing literature to provide a platform for developing a SSHRC Insight Development Grant on environmental humanities approaches to genomic applications for climate change.
Dr. Gwendolyn Blue, Associate Professor, Department of Geography email@example.com
Dr. Mél Hogan, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Media & Film firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Morgan Vanek, Assistant Professor, Department of English email@example.com
Dr. Martin Wagner, Assistant Professor, School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures & Cultures firstname.lastname@example.org