Author, adventurer David Quammen to talk on scary viruses that plague the world

Next speaker in the Discover Science Lecture Series Feb. 4 at Davidson Mathematics and Science Center

Author and adventurer David Quammen is the next speaker in the Discover Science Lecture Series at the University of Nevada, Reno Thursday, Feb. 4.

1/26/2016 | By: Mike Wolterbeek  |

Science author and journalist David Quammen will explore, in a lecture at the University of Nevada, Reno, the mysteries and dangers from the steady drumbeat of scary new viruses - Zika, MERS, Ebola, SARS - emerging suddenly to cause misery, death, and in some cases epidemics of global concern.

The lecture, "Ebola and Beyond: Scary Viruses in a Globalized World," will be presented at the Discover Science Lecture Series, Thursday, Feb. 4. It will focus on Quammen's most recent works about Ebola and AIDS - his books "The Chimp and the River" and "Ebola" - which stem from his acclaimed book about emerging diseases, "Spillover."

"I'll draw on my travels for researching "Spillover," and further travels since to cover Ebola for 'National Geographic,' to discuss this subject in terms that make sense for everybody," Quammen said. "Among the main points of my lecture is that these scary diseases, should be seen as ecological phenomenon with ecological causes, all linked together in a pattern-and not merely one-off medical emergencies that keep affecting the human race.

"These new viruses share one thing in common: they are all zoonoses, meaning animal infections that sometimes spill over into humans.  The whole broader pattern reflects things that we're doing, not just things that are happening to us."

Quammen is a journalist as well as a science, nature and travel writer. He has authored 12 books, five of them fiction. He will have a book-signing session following the College of Science sponsored lecture.

In his 30-year career as a writer, more than 100 pieces of his short non-fiction have been published in popular magazines such as Harper's, Outside, Esquire, The Atlantic, Powder and Rolling Stone. Quammen also wrote a column called "Natural Acts" for Outside magazine for 15 years. As a contributing writer for National Geographic magazine, he travels often, usually to wild and remote places. His latest feature article in National Geographic, published in July 2015, "Seeking the Source of Ebola," chronicles the progression of Ebola.

Quammen wrote on his webpages, "Something else I've said elsewhere: safety is craft, when it comes to writing, and art entails risk. For whatever this may be worth, and I invite you to discount it as coming from the author: "The Chimp and the River" probably constitutes the riskiest and most important 176 pages I've ever written."

Now in its sixth year, the annual Discover Science Lecture Series brings renowned scientists and science lecturers from around the country to share their knowledge with the community. Other speakers scheduled for the 2016 Discover Science Lecture Series are Paul Alan Cox, ethnomedicine expert, March 10 and Bob Williams, Hubble Space Telescope project leader, April 21.

The Quammen lecture will be held at 7 p.m., Feb. 4 in the Redfield Auditorium in the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center on the University campus. Parking is reserved for the event on the top level of the Brian J. Whalen Parking Complex on North Virginia Street. Admission is free. For more information, call 775-784-4591 or visit the College of Science website at


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