Chatham News

Symposium to examine Rachel Carson’s legacy 50 years after “Silent Spring”

Heinz Award Recipient Louis J. Guillette, Jr. to provide keynote address on environmental contaminants and health

Fifty years ago, scientist and author Rachel Carson sparked the modern environmental movement by bringing to light the dangers posed by the then widely utilized pesticide DDT. Her book, “Silent Spring,” documented the tragic, unintentional environmental repercussions of the use of man-made chemicals, launched a worldwide campaign to reduce the use of dangerous chemicals in the environment, and continues to inspire the next generation of environmental defenders.

In recognition of the tremendous impact of Carson’s seminal work, more than 25 environmental leaders from around the globe will gather in Pittsburgh on May 11 and 12 to give their perspectives on “Silent Spring,” to examine the role it has played in raising environmental awareness over the past 50 years, and to look toward the future of the environmental conservation movement.

The Perspectives on Silent Spring at 50 Symposium, presented by the National Aviary and the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University, will include presentations and panel discussions on the long-lasting impact of Carson’s work, highlighted with a keynote address by 2011 Heinz Award recipient Louis J. Guillette, Jr.  A reproductive biologist and professor at the University of Florida, Guillette has received international acclaim for research on the impacts of toxic chemicals on the reproductive systems of alligators and other wildlife.

“Rachel Carson left a legacy of writing and an environmental ethic drawn from her concern about the persistent chemicals people introduce into the environment,” said Patricia DeMarco, director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University. “We will examine the predictions Rachel Carson made in her writing, evaluate how the current environmental conditions reflect her concerns, and address the challenges and hopes we face in the twenty-first century.”

The Perspectives on Silent Spring at 50 Symposium will open at 1 p.m. on Friday, May 11, at the National Aviary, with a special presentation of Wings!, the Aviary’s dramatic multimedia, interactive, live bird performance, followed by a special airing of Rachel Carson’s speech to the National Women’s Press Club and a panel discussion, “Voices of the Earth,” with environmental writers Scott Weidensaul, Sherri Woodley, John Juriga, and Diane Graves.  The first day of the symposium will end with a keynote address by Carson’s biographer, Linda Lear, Ph.D., entitled “That Book Is For The Birds.”

The symposium will continue on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Eddy Theatre at Chatham University’s Shadyside campus beginning with Guillette’s keynote address, and followed by four panel discussions on the lessons, challenges, images and messages, and future voices that the book “Silent Spring” has informed or inspired.

More information and tickets are available at Tickets are $50 for Friday, May 11, $75 for Saturday, May 12, or $100 for both days. Space is limited to 150.

About the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University
The Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University was established in 1989 top honor the legacy of Chatham University’s famous alumna, Rachel Carson. The Rachel Carson Institute within the School of Sustainability and the Environment is an internationally focused center for outreach, education, and research, around the principles of systems thinking and multidisciplinary investigation that marked Rachel Carson’s work. For more information about the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University, visit

About Chatham University
Chatham University prepares students from around the world to help develop solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Consistently ranked among the top master’s level institutions in the Northeast by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, Chatham University is also ranked in the top five percent of graduate-intensive institutions nationally and experienced the fastest-growing enrollment in the Pittsburgh region over the past decade. Founded in 1869, Chatham University includes the Shadyside Campus, with the historic 39-acre Woodland Road arboretum and Chatham Eastside facility; and the 388-acre Eden Hall Campus north of Pittsburgh. For more information about Chatham University, visit

About the National Aviary
The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated exclusively to birds. Located in West Park on Pittsburgh’s historic Northside, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises more than 600 birds representing more than 200 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild. The National Aviary works to inspire respect for nature through an appreciation of birds. For more information about the National Aviary, visit