Bonnie McGill

Dr. Bonnie McGill, an ecosystem ecologist and science communicator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, conducts research on an Iowa farm.

A direct descendant of Judge Thomas White, the namesake of both White’s Woods and White Township, will talk about engaging rural area citizens in the discussion about climate change in a free webinar Feb. 11, sponsored by the Friends of White’s Woods.

Dr. Bonnie McGill, an ecosystem ecologist and science communicator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, is White’s great-great-great-great granddaughter by way of his descendants Richard White, Juliet White Watson, Ann Watson Agnew, Judith Agnew Moorhead Holsinger and Patty Moorhead.

“Even though climate change is happening in western Pennsylvania, the subject of climate change remains difficult to talk about here and in much of rural America,” McGill said. “In this talk, I will introduce the Climate and Rural Systems Partnership between Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the University of Pittsburgh, Mercer County Conservation District and Powdermill Nature Reserve (Westmoreland County),” she said, noting that Indiana County is also part of this partnership.

The goal, McGill said, is to build awareness about climate change in this area, how it impacts the people and places we care about and how community-level solutions may work.

A 2002 Marion Center Area High School graduate, McGill credits her interest in the environment to high school classes taught by Tom Betts. She earned a degree in biology from Washington and Jefferson College and went on to work as an ecology lab manager at Duke University before earning her Ph.D. in ecosystem ecology from Michigan State University. Prior to her current work at the Carnegie museum, she studied the net greenhouse gas footprint of commercial row crops with and without irrigation in the Midwest, the role of climate change in a nitrate-polluted aquifer in Botswana, and how conservation practices on farms in Iowa affect nitrate pollution in Iowa rivers. Her work in Iowa was funded through a prestigious David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship.

“Comfortable Spaces for Uncomfortable Conversations: The Climate and Rural Systems Partnership of Western Pennsylvania” will run from 4 to 5 p.m. with a question-and-answer opportunity at the webinar’s conclusion.

To register, send an email to info@friendsofwhites