SEJ's 25th Annual Conference Agenda — Friday


Climate/Weather Plenary
Concurrent Sessions
Network Lunch
Keynote Debate
Dinner & Movies


Agenda Coverage Lodging/ Travel Exhibits/Receptions Environmental News About Norman



As a journalism organization that believes in an open society, SEJ each year welcomes a diverse group of attendees to our annual conference. Attendees include representatives of business, government and environmental groups, as well as working journalists, academics and students.

Because non-journalists are here, you may see or hear presentations or responses to presentations that you might not expect from mainstream journalists. The presentations and any responses do not necessarily reflect the views of SEJ or any of its members.

As our guest, you should respect our interest in open discussions of environmental issues by thanking all participants in sessions you attend and not disrupting presentations of views you disagree with.

Finally, please respect our rule that SEJ members are given preference during question-and-answer sessions.


Friday, October 9, 2015


All sessions, as well as registration, exhibits and breaks, will be at the
Embassy Suites & Conference Center, 2501 Conference Drive,
Norman, OK 73069, (405) 364-8040.




8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Location: In the foyer of the Embassy Suites & Conference Center, 2501 Conference Drive, Norman, OK, near the glass doors to the parking lot

If you didn't sign up ahead of time for the Friday dinner and movie, Saturday night party or Sunday brunch at the National Weather Center, there may still be room — please check with registration.


SEJ Information Table

8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Location: Convention Center foyer near registration

Sign up here for Friday night's Open Screen (guidelines) and Saturday mini-tours. Read up on SEJ Board candidates, and find information about SEJ Award winners, membership and services. Pick up copies of SEJournal and other SEJ information.


SEJ Exhibits

8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Location: Oklahoma Ballroom

Don't miss the wealth of information offered by the 2015 exhibitors. Learn about environmental issues and innovations, educational opportunities, see some great displays and add to your source list.



10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Location: Oklahoma Ballroom

The University of Oklahoma's bookstore is on site to sell SEJ members' and speakers' books, as well as offering environmental books handpicked for the SEJ conference.


Breakfast of Environmental Champions

7:00 - 8:45 a.m.
Location: Oklahoma Ballroom

The free omelet bar beckons! Come share breakfast with PIOs from DC and across the country. We’ll have public information officers from several federal and state agencies, including EPA, NOAA, FWS and USGS, gathered in one place at one time just for you. Freelance journalist Lana Straub will be your breakfast emcee as you move from table to table meeting contacts and gathering intel for that next big story. It'll be a breakfast of environmental champions that you won’t want to miss.


Opening Plenary

Climate Change and Extreme Weather: Planning for an Uncertain Future

Photo courtesy of the National Severe Storms Laboratory

9:00 - 10:30 a.m.
Location: Oklahoma Ballroom

From tornadoes on the plains to hurricanes on the coasts, and from drought and wildfire to flooding and snowstorms, and despite differing politics and climate change “beliefs,” the nation is bracing for a super-charged extreme weather future. We’ll explore this future with top weather, ocean and infrastructure experts, learn about adaption and mitigation strategies already under way and address our limitations in understanding the threats. Coverage.

Welcome: Kelvin Droegemeier, Vice President for Research and Regents' Professor of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, will introduce the plenary session.

Moderator: Seth Borenstein, Science Writer, The Associated Press

Berrien Moore, Director, National Weather Center; Dean, College of Atmospheric & Geographic Sciences; Chesapeake Energy Corporation Chair in Climate Studies; and Vice President, Weather & Climate Programs, University of Oklahoma
Jonathan Overpeck, Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Professor, Regents' Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, and Co-Director, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona
Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Kathleen Tierney, Director, Natural Hazards Center and Professor, Department of Sociology and the Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder


Coffee Break with Exhibitors

10:30 - 11:00 a.m.
Location: Oklahoma Ballroom


Concurrent Sessions 1

11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

Wrangling the Numbers
Location: University A

Scientific studies, environmental assessments, cost-benefit analyses are documents environmental journalists encounter daily. They are essential to our reporting but navigating the numbers is often challenging. Yet understanding the numbers can reveal vital clues about the study — and how the information will be used in public policy decision-making. In this session we'll hear from scientists who are experts in telling stories with numbers and who'll help demystify the math so journalists can ask better questions — and tell better stories — about subjects ranging from climate change to air pollution and endocrine disruption. This number wrangling is also key to data visualization and full of surprises which can lead to otherwise hidden stories. Coverage.

Related information:

Moderator: Elizabeth Grossman, Freelance Journalist

Sylvia Brandt, Associate Professor, Econometrics and Environmental Economics, Department of Resource Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Janet Raloff, Editor, Science News for Students
Leonardo Trasande, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics; Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Medicine; Associate Professor, Department of Population Health, School of Medicine/Langone Medical Center, New York University

Covering Environmental Crimes
Location: University B

The criminal justice system plays a key role in the enforcement of environmental laws and the implementation of public policy. Courts are venues for confrontation in newsworthy conflicts — some with serious human impacts. Such conflicts are as diverse as toxic dumping, poaching, illegal asbestos removal, trafficking in endangered species and filing fraudulent reports with environmental regulators. This panel explores the role of federal and state environmental, public land management and natural resources law enforcement agencies and the criminal courts as sources for news tips, story ideas, documents and people to interview. Coverage.

Related information:

Moderator: Eric Freedman, Knight Chair; Director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism; Director of Capital News Service; and Professor, School of Journalism, Michigan State University

Michael Freeman, Criminal Investigator, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality
Deborah Harris, Chief, Environmental Crimes Section, Environment & Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Steve Oberholtzer, Special Agent in Charge, Mountain Prairie Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

What's Shaking: Earthquakes Linked to Drilling in Oklahoma and Beyond
Location: University C

The nation's drilling boom has created a strange side effect: man-made earthquakes. Shaken more than California last year with no end in sight, Oklahoma is at the center of this trend. But Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio and West Virginia have had quakes linked to drilling-waste disposal. Texas has had some of the best documented cases and has seen some of the fiercest backlash from rattled homeowners. We'll hear from scientists at the center of research into "induced seismicity," a reporter who covered the politics of quakes in the oil patch, and one of the three commissioners in charge of regulating oil and gas drilling in Texas. Coverage.

Related information:

Moderator: Mike Soraghan, Reporter, EnergyWire/E&E Publishing

Ziva Branstetter, Editor in Chief, The Frontier and former Enterprise Editor, Tulsa World
George Choy, Seismologist, Geologic Hazards Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey
Kyle Murray, Hydrogeologist, Oklahoma Geological Survey, and Professor, Mewbourne College of Earth & Energy, University of Oklahoma
Ryan Sitton, Texas Railroad Commissioner

Water in a Thirsty World: Costs and Risks
Location: Oklahoma G

An insufficient supply of freshwater strains food production, energy development, urban life and ecosystems. Twentieth-century perceptions of abundant water have given way to a new era of scarcity. What are the key risks? How should governments and managers respond? Oklahoma, for instance, set a goal in 2012 of using no more water in 2060 than today. Panelists will discuss state, regional and international connections between water, food, energy, cities and the environment. Coverage.

Related information:

Moderator: Brett Walton, News Correspondent, Circle of Blue

Monika Freyman, Senior Manager, Water Program, Ceres
Robert Mason, Chief, Office of Surface Water, U.S. Geological Survey
J.D. Strong, Executive Director, Oklahoma Water Resources Board

Indians 101: The Law and the Land
Location: Sooner B

We highly recommend attending this session if you plan to go to Saturday's complementary session, "Indian Environmental Law: Flexing Legal Muscle Beyond Reservation Lands." These two panels feature a cast of all-stars available only in Oklahoma to verse you on American Indians’ role in environmental issues. This first one is about the basics of tribal government jurisdiction, which you will need to know to produce stories about the case studies in the second one. Here you will gain appreciation for boundaries between federal, tribal, state, county and city governments. At the very least, you will learn the common pitfalls to avoid in covering them. Coverage.

Moderator: Talli Nauman, Co-Director, Journalism To Raise Environmental Awareness

Nedra Darling, Spokeswoman and Director, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior
Neal McCaleb, Ambassador at Large, Chickasaw Nation
Lindsay Robertson, Chickasaw Nation Native American Law Chair and Faculty Director, Center for the Study of American Indian Law and Policy, College of Law, University of Oklahoma

Hours to Decades: The New World of Long-Range Tornado Science
Location: Sooner A

Tornado understanding is moving far beyond the 13-minute lead time that is now standard for U.S. tornado warnings. A congressional bill is calling for research into hour-plus lead times. Seasonal tornado prediction is getting its sea legs. And though we can't pin an individual tornado on climate change, we're learning more about how tornado season might change as our climate warms — and how it's already changing. What's the science behind these advances, and what are the benefits and potential risks for a public that's both storm-savvy and hype-weary? Coverage.

Moderator: Robert Henson, Weather/Climate Science Blogger, Weather Underground, and Author, "Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change"

Harold Brooks, Senior Research Scientist, National Severe Storms Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Victor Gensini, Associate Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth Sciences, College of DuPage
Kim Klockow, Postdoctoral Researcher, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, and Policy Advisor for Social Science Integration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Infrastructure, The 14-Letter Dirty Word
Location: Boomer B

With a Congress poised to spend next to nothing, cities, states and regions are hard-pressed to deal with century-old maintenance and replacement problems in the face of climate change and population growth: streets and highways, sewer and water systems, levees and dams. You name it and it adds up to trillions of dollars. We try to pin down those asking for the money on what it means to our environment. Coverage.

Moderator: Mark Schleifstein, Environment Reporter, | The Times-Picayune

Shellie Chard-McClary, Water Quality Division Director, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, representing American Society of Civil Engineers
Kenneth Smith, Member, American Society of Civil Engineers, and former President, Association of State Dam Safety Officials

Feeding the World: Change of Direction
Location: Boomer A

Goat and fish are what’s for dinner on far more tables than beef is. Langston University’s E (Kika) de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research is an international leader in breeding and food research. Langston’s Aquaculture Facility has 46 research ponds exploring how to improve raising fish. The Aquaculture program aims for environmental harmony to increase profitability and reduce dependence on outside resources. Feeding the world triggers threats of famine, but the high-tech solution is a double-edged sword in agriculture. Laws governing agriculture have changed as the public embraces goals of sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Moderator: Christine Heinrichs, Freelance Journalist

Terry Gipson, Research Associate, E (Kika) de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research, School of Agriculture, Langston University
George Luker, Aquaculture Specialist, School of Agriculture, Langston University
Julie Mettenburg, Cattle Rancher; and Executive Director of the Kansas Rural Center


Network Lunch

12:15 - 1:45 p.m.
Location: Oklahoma Ballroom

Choose a discussion table on a wide range of timely topics and reporting tips listed below, or join a breakout session with lively newsmakers or journalism trainers. A list of the table topics is also available at the SEJ info table.

Concurrent with the table discussions are the following two breakout sessions:

1. Helping Environmental Scientists Engage the Public Directly
Location: Crimson Room

Journalism educators can meet an increasing demand from scientists to directly engage the public by helping them develop journalistic skills and values. Journalism educators have long offered such training to the science community. But a new demand — and opportunity — comes directly from scientists and other researchers. It is fueled by young researchers who want their science to change policy, funders who demand broader impacts of the science they support and the disruption that has led to fewer journalists on specialty beats and in general.

Moderator: David Poulson, Senior Associate Director, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University

Bill Allen, Assistant Professor of Science Journalism, School of Journalism, University of Missouri-Columbia
Dan Fagin, Director, Science, Health, Environmental Reporting and Science Communication Workshops, New York University
Rick Purtha, Team Leader, Water Quality Indiana, Ball State University

2. Beyond Hard Science: Social Science and the IPCC
Location: Oklahoma G

Scientists have made their case for taking action on climate change, and economists have gained a few more converts, but it's not enough to move most Americans. Enter social scientists: sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists and philosophers. They're looking at how to use our institutions and cultural practices to drive action. Coverage.

Moderator: Christy George, Independent TV Producer

Riley Dunlap, Regents Professor of Sociology and Laurence L. and Georgia Ina Dresser Professor, Department of Sociology, Oklahoma State University
Katharine Hayhoe, Director, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University

Small-Group Discussions

Looking for a more casual conversation? Select a topic and join a table (numbered below) in the Oklahoma Ballroom for an informal lunch.

  1. Funding Environmental Journalism
    Moderator: Elizabeth Grossman, Freelance Journalist
    Join a lively discussion about funding environmental journalism led by SEJ executive director Beth Parke. In the mix: strategies publications — both for- and not-profit — are using, the role of journalism organizations, opportunities for individual journalists and journalism projects, and what’s needed to sustain environmental journalists and journalism.
  2. Avian Flu, Ebola, Pandemics and Pathogens
    Moderator: Randy Lee Loftis, Independent Journalist
    Environment, population and mobility are putting infectious diseases on the move. Last year the U.S. panicked over Ebola. Less dramatic are the migrations of avian flu and dengue fever. What's the status of emerging diseases, and how can journalists cover them?
  3. Green Growth: Fact or Fiction?
    Moderator: Brian Czech, Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy
    Is “green growth” a unique approach to growing the economy that can reconcile the conflict between economic growth and environmental protection? Or is it an oxymoron perpetrated by Wall Street and Madison Avenue? What do scientists and economists say? Will include a bonus discussion of bewildering “green growth” images.
  4. Reporting Partnerships between Newsrooms and J Schools
    Moderator: Adam Glenn, Educator, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism; Digital Media Consultant; Editor, SEJournal, Society of Environmental Journalists
    As news organizations continue to work under ever-tightening budgets, and journalism schools seek to maintain relevance in a fast-changing news environment, the two have increasingly turned to foundation-supported “teaching hospital”-style joint projects that bring academe into the community to cover stories. We explore the benefits and best practices of such arrangements, such as leveraging student reporters and academic expertise on issues with well-established community news services. But we also investigate the weaknesses, such as fluctuating resources due to the academic calendar, and conflicting institutional goals.
  5. Radio Reporting for Dummies (and Smart People)
    Moderator: Matthew Schuerman, WNYC Radio and Joe Wertz, StateImpact Oklahoma
    Public radio is becoming a robust outlet for environmental reporting. Local affiliates, as well as national networks and special-interest podcasts, all offer promising opportunities. But it can be challenging to tell complex, involved stories through sound. Whether you are a refugee from the print world or an old radio hand, come join these experienced audio professionals as they trade tips on using the medium to craft powerful journalism.
  6. Oklahoma-Arkansas and the Poop Wars
    Moderator: Rona Kobell, Chesapeake Bay Journal
    Well, that's one way to control your phosphorus. In 2001, the Tulsa Metropolitan Water Authority sued several poultry companies and the state of Arkansas for contaminating the water supply of the 500,000-resident city. The case eventually settled, with a judge imposing a limit on phosphorus that farmers could apply to their fields. Then the judge halved the limit again. Today, most of the manure that Arkansas' 2 billion chickens generate is exported and some of it ends up in Oklahoma. Is this model sustainable? Can it work elsewhere? Joining this discussion are Chris Clayton, Ag Policy Editor of DTN/The Progressive Farmer and former Attorney General Drew Edmondson. Coverage.
  7. From Storage to Smart Meters: Reinventing the Electrical Grid
    Moderator: Stephanie Joyce and Emily Guerin, Inside Energy
    The grid is the country’s largest machine, but it’s starting to show its age. The infrastructure is dated and challenged by increasing power needs and new kinds of power generation, like wind and solar. In this discussion, we'll look at challenges to bringing the grid into the 21st century, and potential solutions.
  8. Climate Victims or Climate Victors? Women at the Eye of the Storm in Africa and Asia
    Moderator: Meaghan Parker, Environmental Change and Security Program, Wilson Center
    From struggling to save their families' failing crops to walking farther and farther to fetch clean water, poor women in Africa and Asia will be disproportionately affected by climate changes. And new stories emerging from storm-ravaged parts of India and Africa reveal a troubling link between extreme weather events and sexual exploitation. But women's traditional knowledge and responsibilities could also hold keys to solving the adaptation puzzle. Two reporters from Liberia and India, Wade Williams of FrontLineAfrica and Priyali Sur of CNN-IBN, will share their experiences reporting on women, gender and the environment to kick off a discussion of these largely untold stories of women around the world facing and fighting climate change.
  9. Animas River Spill and the EPA
    Moderator: Tripp Baltz, Staff Correspondent, Bloomberg BNA
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accidentally triggered the release of 3 million gallons of mining waste into a river in southwest Colorado. Congress has opened several investigations while it remains unclear who, ultimately, will be held responsible for cleanup. Join us for a quick update on the Gold King Mine spill.
  10. Environmental (fill in the blank): Issues and Sustainability — What You Should Know
    Moderator: Don Corrigan, Webster University, St. Louis
    “Environmental Missouri” is the first comprehensive guide to local and state environmental issues involving the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we inhabit in the Show-Me State. It argues that we should teach our children well; instead of trying to sweep problems under the rug, it’s time to tackle them head on and guide the way to a more sustainable future. Join the book author to discuss what this looks like in your state.
  11. SEJ 2016 — Sacramento
    Moderator: Carolyn Whetzel, Conference Co-Chair and Staff Correspondent, Bloomberg BNA
    Planning begins now for next year’s conference, SEJ in CA: Land of the Extremes, Home of Big Dreams. Carolyn Whetzel, conference co-chair, and Amy Quinton, environment reporter at Sacramento’s Capital Public Radio want to hear your ideas on how to make SEJ 2016 great!
  12. Investigating the Food and Agrichemical Industries
    Moderator: Tim Wheeler, Reporter, The Baltimore Sun
    We'll brainstorm with Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know, about how to uncover these industries' scandals, political influence, front groups, how they mislead consumers, etc.


Concurrent Sessions 2

2:00 - 3:15 p.m.

Figures That Illustrate, Figures That Obfuscate and How To Tell the Difference
Location: University A

In science, and especially in the world of climate science, numbers can be used and misused. This session will give you a quick guide on what to look for on how numbers can help you find the truth in science and how they can lead you astray, with real life examples from the world of global warming. Sure figures lie and liars figure, but here’s how to figure it out — done in mythbusting style. Coverage.

Moderator: Seth Borenstein, Science Writer, The Associated Press

Deke Arndt, Chief of Climate Monitoring, National Centers for Environmental Information, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Kevin Kloesel, Director, Oklahoma Climatological Survey; University Meteorologist, Office of Emergency Preparedness; and Associate Professor, College of Atmospheric & Geographic Sciences, University of Oklahoma
Robert Mason, Chief, Office of Surface Water, U.S. Geological Survey

Freelance Pitch Slam
Location: University B

As if crafting a captivating pitch isn’t challenging enough, waiting for editors to reply to your pitches can be downright demoralizing and aggravating, right? This Pitch Slam is your chance to present a 60-second pitch to a captive audience of editors and receive feedback immediately. Whether you’re new to freelancing or a veteran, this session is your chance to learn from editors how they think, what their publications want, what they pay, how to break in and why your story could work, or not work, for them. You’ll walk away with an improved pitch, key contacts in the field and maybe an assignment or two. Note: this session will not be recorded and attendees are expected to keep others’ pitches confidential.

Although it’s not required, the editors encourage you to send in your pitches in advance of the conference so that they can give them a closer look and thus give a more prepared critique when you give the pitch in person at the session. If you have one prepared (and again, it’s not required at all), please email it to by midnight EDT Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Moderator: Susan Moran, Freelance Journalist

Jennifer Bogo, Executive Editor, Popular Science
Rene Ebersole, Features Editor, Aubudon Magazine
Janet Raloff, Editor, Science News for Students
Tyghe Trimble, Editorial Director,

Megadroughts: A Threat to Civilization?
Location: Oklahoma G

With California in the midst of one of its worst droughts on record — and the West in general enduring a 15-year drought — scientists are wondering if we're seeing the beginning of a "megadrought" across the region. But what, exactly, is a megadrought? Are they a "threat to civilization" as some scientists have said? Panelists will discuss megadroughts and also address how climate change is related to this drought and megadroughts overall. Coverage.

Moderator: Doyle Rice, Weather Editor/Reporter, USA TODAY

Brian Fuchs, Associate Geoscientist/Climatologist, National Drought Mitigation Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Jay Lund, Director, Center for Watershed Sciences and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis
Gary McManus, State Climatologist, Oklahoma Mesonet and Oklahoma Climatological Survey, University of Oklahoma
Jonathan Overpeck, Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Professor, Regents' Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, and Co-Director, Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona

Environmental Justice Today: From the Plains to the Streets
Location: Sooner B

How are environmental issues affecting vulnerable and marginalized communities? It's our job as environmental journalists to find out, but writing and reporting environmental justice stories is not always easy. In this panel, we will discuss the importance of environmental justice journalism, the logistics of finding stories and sources, and how to tell culturally specific stories respectfully and accurately. Coverage.

Moderator: Jenny Chen, Freelance Journalist

Brian Bienkowski, Senior Editor, Environmental Health News
Vicki Monks, Freelance Writer
Kendra Pierre-Louis, Independent Journalist and Author, "Green Washed"
Ed Williams, Reporter, KUNM/Public Health New Mexico

Meltdown: Climate Change and Political Instability
Location: Sooner A

The warnings about climate warring are coming from all corners. "Climate change can increase the risk of instability and conflict across the globe," said Secretary of State John Kerry. Pope Francis said in his encyclical that "once certain resources have been depleted, the scene will be set for new wars." From drought-stricken Syria to the melting Arctic, this panel will offer new angles for reporters in run-up to the Paris COP. Foreign policy and defense experts will explain how climate change can undermine political stability, how to separate facts from fiction about "climate wars" and "climate refugees," and identify some surprising opportunities for mitigating conflict and climate. Coverage.

Related information:

Moderator: Cleo Paskal, Associate Fellow, Department of Energy, Environment and Resources, Chatham House, and Author, "Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map"

Sharon Burke, Advisor, Pew Project on National Security, Energy, and Climate; and Senior Advisor, New America Foundation
Geoff Dabelko, Professor and Director of Environmental Studies, Ohio University
Roger-Mark De Souza, Director of Population, Environmental Security and Resilience, Woodrow Wilson Center

Winged Warnings: What Can Today’s Mineshaft Canaries Teach Us?
Location: Boomer B

"Canary in the coalmine" isn’t just a proverb: Birds are showing us what ails their environment — and sometimes, what ails us. Their breeding, parenting, behavior, brains, hormones — even their songs — have been altered by pollutants, climate change and other threats. More than 1,300 species of birds are perched perilously on a global list of threatened species, and each one is sending us warnings about the threats to the health of wildlife and humans. At this session, hear from a scientist who is studying the newest class of pesticides called neonicotinoids and from writers and editors who crafted the Winged Warnings series. Coverage.

Moderator: Marla Cone, Senior Editor, Environment, National Geographic

Jeff Kelly, Associate Professor of Biology and Heritage Zoologist, Oklahoma Biological Survey, University of Oklahoma
Alanna Mitchell, Science Journalist, Author and Playwright
Christy Morrissey, Associate Professor, Department of Biology and School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan

Can Big Data Save American Farmers?
Location: Boomer A

American farmers — and the crops we all depend on — are in for a serious blow from climate change. In response, agribusiness giants like Monsanto are looking for solutions, and one of the most promising could be on farmers’ smartphones. “Precision farming” taps troves of ag-related data to conserve resources and take the guesswork out of climate change adaptation. But as ag companies move into territory usually associated with Google and Facebook, will farmers’ privacy be at risk? Coverage.

Moderator: Tim McDonnell, Reporter, Mother Jones and Associate Producer, Climate Desk

Erik Andrejko, Vice President of Science, The Climate Corporation
Robert Parkhurst, Director of Agriculture Greenhouse Gas Markets, Environmental Defense Fund
Mary Kay Thatcher, Senior Director of Congressional Relations, American Farm Bureau Federation
Kristin Weeks Duncanson, Owner/Partner, Duncanson Growers


What's in Your Email, Doc?

3:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Location: Oklahoma Ballroom

Scientists working or speaking out on hot-button topics like climate change and GMO foods are being peppered with open-records requests to see their data and emails. Is this a legitimate way to smoke out misconduct and undisclosed ties to special interests? Or is it harassment intended to stifle inconvenient research? Can there be too much sunshine? We’ll hear from a scientist targeted by this tactic, an advocate and prolific FOIA filer and a nonprofit group arguing there ought to be limits on such snooping. Oh, and also a journalist who exposed industry influence via emails obtained via open-records request. Coverage.

Related information:

Moderator: Tim Wheeler, Reporter, The Baltimore Sun

Michael Halpern, Program Manager, Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists
Katharine Hayhoe, Director, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University
Gary Ruskin, Co-Director, U.S. Right to Know
Mike Soraghan, Reporter, EnergyWire/E&E Publishing


SEJ Membership Meeting

4:30 - 5:45 p.m.
Location: Oklahoma Ballroom

All are welcome for the Annual Membership Meeting of the Society of Environmental Journalists.  SEJ members, please attend to hear from candidates and cast your vote to fill open seats on SEJ's 2016 Board of Directors. Reports, Q&A and lively discussion of hot topics and future plans for SEJ membership, finance and programs will round out the hour. Non-members are also invited to browse exhibits in the Oklahoma Ballroom at this time.


Dinner and a Movie and... You

6:30 - 11:00 p.m.
Location: Oklahoma Ballroom

© Discovery Channel

Food is available starting at 6:30 p.m. The film begins promptly at 7:00 p.m.

Enjoy a "movie-fare" dinner, including pizza, popcorn and a cash bar, with the groundbreaking documentary, "Racing Extinction," from director Louie Psihoyos and the group behind the Academy Award-winning film, "The Cove." After the show, we'll have a discussion with filmmakers moderated by Dennis Dimick, National Geographic Executive Editor, Environment, and Carylon Ross, Professor of Communication, Broadcast Journalism, at Langston University.

Following dinner and the feature, the room will open up to all conference attendees as we transition into the "Open Screen" portion of the evening, a forum to celebrate our members and creative works of environmental storytelling. Starting about 9:00 p.m., the Open Screen consists of short videos and excerpts from longer works in a laid-back, interactive presentation. Here's how to get your video or photo slideshow included in the Open Screen. Pre-registration and $25 fee required. If you've already registered, you can add this event by contacting Robin Smith.


Wednesday, October 7
Thursday, October 8
Saturday, October 10
Sunday, October 11