Oxford will show a film that highlights the spread of coral bleaching.
Oxford will show a film that highlights the spread of coral bleaching as part of the Atlanta Science Festival. The Ocean Agency/Christophe Bailhache photo

Oxford features Atlanta Science Festival events

The Atlanta Science Festival is headed to Oxford College for the second consecutive year and is growing with two special events.

Last year, Oxford faculty helped bring the nearly month-long Atlanta Science Festival to campus. Students, staff, and community members touched and learned about a variety of native Georgia animals such as turtles, snakes and other wildlife at a day-long event. This year, the college invites surrounding communities to two events on campus, including a screening of a Netflix original documentary about coral reefs and a panel discussion with women and minorities in science.

"Anytime you can bring science to the general public in a fun, accessible, and interesting way is a good thing to do," says Sarah Fankhauser, Oxford assistant professor of biology, who helped bring the Atlanta Science Festival to campus. "We try to think outside the box on events we can host and generate popularity with people."

Chasing Coral, a 2017 Sundance Award-winning documentary focusing on the spread of coral bleaching—a phenomenon caused by rising ocean temperatures—will be shown as part of the festival from 7:00-9:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, at Williams Hall. 

"The visual impact is so stunning," says Melissa Hage, Oxford assistant professor of environmental science. "It brings climate change closer to home and makes it more personal when you actually see its impact on coral reefs. It's a great way to understand and make it so we can relate to it."

After the screening, a panel discussion will take place with several stakeholders:

  • James Porter, emeritus professor at the University of Georgia's Odum School of Ecology;
  • Eri Saikawa, assistant professor of environmental science and public health at Emory University who's spent his entire career documenting coral decline and the effects of global warming on coral reefs;
  • Savannah Miller 16C with Exposure Labs that made the film;
  • David Eady, a member of the City of Oxford City Council who works with sustainability issues; and
  • Caleb Sowers, a second year Oxford student and Sustainability Club President from Asheville, N.C. 

"If things are going to change (for the environment), then we need to get the community involved," Hage says. "We hope to keep this (relationship with the Atlanta Science Festival) building and growing."

Sowers, who is studying physics, astronomy, and environmental science at Oxford, noted that this event is only one of a few away from the city center of Atlanta as part of the festival.
"The festival is a unique collaborative effort between institutions throughout the metro area, and it seems only logical that Oxford should be a part of it," Sowers says. "It affords us a unique opportunity to spread climate change awareness and promote scientific education to people around Newton County, Rockdale County, Walton County and beyond." 
Sowers encourages Oxford College students, faculty, and staff to join in the conversation and grassroots activism about climate change. "This will be a very valuable learning experience as we all continue to translate our academic interests into real-world impacts and change," he says.

The screening is free, but advanced registration is required by ordering tickets. 

Before the screening, Porter will talk to students about his experience in an event titled, “Chasing Coral: The Sundance Experience and the Science Behind the Film.” Oxford students interested in attending the talk should contact Hage. Afterward, area stakeholders—such as local and county representatives, Oxford and Emory representatives, and officials from around the state who are involved in sustainable practiceshave been invited to a VIP dinner to discuss sustainability initiatives in communities.

The Atlanta Science Festival continues at Oxford the following day. “Women and Minorities in STEM: Surprises, Setbacks and Successes” will take place in Williams Hall from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22.

A panel of local women and minorities who paved diverse scientific career paths will be featured alongside keynote speaker Stephanie Espy, author of STEM Gems. The panel includes:

  • Summer Galloway from the World Health Organization;
  • Shatul Parikh, a surgeon at the Emory School of Medicine;
  • Eladio Abreu, a biology lecturer with Emory University; and
  • Sarah McMullen from the Food and Drug Administration.
They will hold a series of conversations and also accept questions from the audience.

“It's a great opportunity to hear from people in our community and how they navigated scientific and professional careers,” Fankhauser says.

The event is free and no registration is necessary.

In addition to the events directly part of the science festival, the Oxford and surrounding community have opportunities for involvement in helping preserve the environment for current and future generations.

Already, some Oxford faculty along with other community members have helped launch Sustainable Newton. The group connects people and resources to better understand and effectively respond to sustainability challenges and opportunities in the community to move issues forward. Oxford College students also are organizing a Climate Week Celebration around the Chasing Coral screening.

Other events around the state surrounding the Atlanta Science Festival can be found at atlantasciencefestival.org. Events run until Saturday, March 24, when the Exploration Expo wraps up the festival from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Piedmont Park in Atlanta.