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In Mellby Lecture, Shea will provide ‘Insights from an Ecologist’s Life’

Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Kathleen Shea will deliver a Mellby Lecture titled ‘Insights from an Ecologist’s Life’ on April 10.

St. Olaf College Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Kathleen Shea will deliver this year’s spring Mellby Lecture on April 10.

Shea, who also serves as curator of the St. Olaf Natural Lands, will deliver a lecture titled Insights from an Ecologist’s Life. It will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Viking Theater, and will also be streamed and archived online. The event is free and open to the public.

Shea teaches ecology, a subject she found love for during her own undergraduate years at Grinnell College. She went on to earn an M.A. in biology from Washington University and a Ph.D in environmental, population, and organismic biology from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

At St. Olaf, Shea has inspired a similar love for ecology in her students. She has led a number of research projects, both on and off campus. She also leads a team of student naturalists who study and take care of the St. Olaf Natural Lands — 350 acres of woods, wetlands, and prairies dedicated to natural habitat that wrap around campus.

While Shea has studied everything from forest restoration to prairie soils, her recent focus has been population ecology, specifically how populations reproduce. She sees the Natural Lands as great resource for this kind of study. To Shea, it’s a communal learning space, one in which everyone can learn more about the world.  

In her lecture, Shea —St. Olaf’s very own “Mother Nature” — will draw on her career to give listeners a taste of some important life lessons, including little things she’s picked up in the field and from people along the way. “I’m always learning. In a career like this, you can’t be prepared for every eventuality, so I’m learning along the way,” Shea says.

One of her most important takeaways is the importance of sustainability. She plans to start a monthly newsletter to spread the word about going green at St Olaf, and she looks forward to continuing her work with student naturalists and researchers.

About the Mellby Lecture
The annual Mellby Lectures remember St. Olaf faculty member Carl A. Mellby. Established in 1983, they allow professors to share their research with the public. Mellby, the “the father of social sciences” at St. Olaf, started the college’s first courses in economics, sociology, political science, and art history. He was professor and administrator from 1901 to 1949, taught Greek, German, French, religion, and philosophy, and developed the college’s honor system.