Dr. Sean B. Carroll could hardly believe his eyes — from one spot he saw gazelles, buffalo, zebras and wildebeests, at least 10 species of animals intermingled.
It wasn’t a zoo or circus or nature but Africa’s Serengeti, located in Tanzania. It inspired the evolutionary biologist to write “Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters,” a tribute to the pioneering scientists who sought answers for life based on their experiences in that area.
Carroll will share stories from the book as the keynote speaker at the Wittenberg Series IBM Endowed Lecture in the Sciences at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, in Bayley Auditorium of the Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center on the Wittenberg campus.
Admission is free and the public is invited.
Carroll is the vice president for science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Allan Wilson Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Mention the wilderness and most people will imagine a mysterious, even dangerous place based on movies or television. Carroll found it one of beauty.
“What strikes you is the numbers of these animals,” said Carroll. “I’ve been to the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands, the Australian Outback and nowhere can you see such a large number of animals in these numbers, so many animals. You think how can this be?”
He calls the Serengeti the great wilderness that is becoming greater. And the lessons learned could be applied to other places.
“The question is how does this work, what keeps it going and is there any grounds for hope,” he said. “I find reason for hope and it’s a pretty moving experience to grasp.”
While he prefers to save stories and details for the lecture, Carroll, who besides being an award-winning biologist and author is also a film-producer, will use film clips and photos in the presentation.
An Ohio native who grew up in Toledo, he recalls the squirrels and pigeons in his back yard as his first introduction to nature. Episodes of the nature program “Wild Kingdom” on black-and-white television opened a door to other places in the world the young Carroll wanted to explore.
He emphasizes his talk is family friendly, light on the technical talk. Many times, attendees will come out wanting to know more about they can get involved.
“We need stories to inspire our curiosity. Maybe somebody’s 8- or 10 year-old daughter will say ‘This is a place I want to go someday,’” he said.
A colloquium with Carroll will also be at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Bayley Auditorium.