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Rob Dunn

North Carolina State University


Dr. Robert (Rob) Dunn serves as Senior Vice Provost for University Interdisciplinary Programs at NC State University. In this role, Dunn oversees the Office of University Interdisciplinary Programs, which includes: the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program; the Data Science, Genetics and Genomics, and Global One Health Academies; the Biotechnology Program; the Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Initiative; NC State Innovation and Entrepreneurship; the Integrative Sciences Initiative; the Long View Project; the Sustainable Futures Initiative; and the Shelton Leadership Center. He has worked alongside university leaders and campus partners to stand up the office, and is responsible for equipping new interdisciplinary initiatives for success, continuing to support existing initiatives, and achieving the office’s strategic goals.

Dunn also holds a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professorship in the Department of Applied Ecology, where he devotes 20 percent of his time. He has been a member of the NC State faculty since 2005. Dunn manages the Public Science lab. His research has been awarded more than ten million dollars in grants from no fewer than twelve different sources for work in 20 different countries.

Dunn received his Bachelor of Arts in biology from Kalamazoo College, and his Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from the University of Connecticut. He is an avid writer and has published many popular articles, in National Geographic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal among many others, as well as seven books, most recently, A Natural History of the Future and Delicious, The Evolution of Flavor and How it Made us Human, with Monica Sanchez.


Keynote Lecture

The Role of Mutualisms in Natural Histories of the Future

To ecologists, mutualisms are relationships in which two species interact in ways that both benefit.

Mutualisms have been fundamental to human evolution and history, albeit relatively neglected by scholars. In this wide-ranging talk--spanning from honeyguides to dogs to bacteria that live in the mouths of ants-Dunn will explore the prehistory of human mutualisms as well as the radical transition that occurred as some human populations began to collaborate (or, should it be, began to be domesticated by) yeasts and grains. Radical new, transformative mutualisms with pigs, goats, sheep and, eventually, chickens would follow. The units evolutionary biologists and ecologists use to measure these ancient mutualisms are units of evolutionary fitness. But as we consider the mutualisms of the future, we can make choices about how we measure our partnerships with other species and whether they are mutually beneficial. We can also make choices about the species with which we partner. Dunn concludes by considering the ways in which we might imagine different kinds of futures in which we partner with far more species on new terms. He focuses particular attention to the role of pleasure in general and flavor in particular in these relationships.

Time and Location:
Thursday, August 21
11:15 - 12:45
Saalastinsali, University of Oulu

University of Oulu
Bioverse Anthropocenes