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Renowned National Geographic photographer Polar Day keynote

Joel Sartore, speaker, author, teacher and a 20-year contributor to National Geographic magazine, will give the keynote presentation at Penn State’s third annual Polar Day.
March 24, 2015

Polar Day, a free public event celebrating the natural and cultural value of the Polar Regions, will be held from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Friday, March 27, in the McCoy Natatorium and from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the HUB-Robeson Center's Freeman Auditorium, both on the University Park campus of Penn State. Polar Day is sponsored by Penn State’s Polar Center.

Joel Sartore, speaker, author, teacher and a 20-year contributor to National Geographic magazine, will give the keynote presentation at Penn State’s third annual Polar Day. Sartore, whose assignments have taken him to every continent and to the world’s most beautiful and challenging environments, from the High Arctic to the Antarctic, will present “Witnessing Change: Making Sense of Global Warming" at 12:45 p.m. in the HUB-Robeson Center's Freeman Auditorium.

Sartore’s first National Geographic assignment introduced him to nature photography, allowing him to see human impact on the environment first-hand. He says that he is "on a mission to document endangered species and landscapes in order to show a world worth saving.”

In addition to the work Sartore has done for National Geographic, he has contributed to Audubon Magazine, Geo, Time, Life, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and numerous book projects. He also has been featured on several national broadcasts including National Geographic’s “Explorer,” “NBC Nightly News,” NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and an hour-long PBS documentary, “At Close Range.” He is also a contributor on “CBS News Sunday Morning” with Charles Osgood.

Polar Day events at the McCoy Natatorium will include a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) demo by Buzz Scott, and Jennifer Miksis-Olds, Center for Marine Science and Technology (C-MAST) will demo sounds of whales, walrus, seals, and fish commonly heard in polar waters. The events at the HUB-Robeson Center's Freeman Auditorium will include talks, data sonifications, book signings and a film screening.

P.J. Capelotti, associate professor of anthropology at Penn States Abington, will kick off Polar Day activities at the HUB-Robeson Center's Freeman Auditorium at 11:30 a.m. with his talk “From Kane to Peary: The Polar Explorers of Pennsylvania.” Capelotti is the author of more than a dozen books. His research has taken him on several occasions to the Svalbard Archipelago and Franz Josef Land, and twice to the North Pole.

In 2013, Capelotti published “Shipwreck at Cape Flora: The Expeditions of Benjamin Leigh Smith, England’s Forgotten Arctic Explorer,” the first biography of the British explorer Benjamin Leigh Smith. He recently completed the first history of the American exploration of Franz Josef Land, which took place between 1898 and 1905. 

From 12:20 to 12:40 p.m., Mark Ballora, associate professor of music technology with joint appointments in the School of Music and the School of Theatre, will present the data sonification “Squirrel Rhythms: Listening to Cycles in the Body Temperatures of Arctic Squirrels." Sonification is the use of nonspeech audio to convey information or visualize data.

Following Sartore’s talk, both Sartore and Capelotti will host book signings from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Sartore will sign his book “Rare: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species,” which features photos of some of endangered creatures from flies to wolves. Capelotti will sign his books “Shipwreck at Cape Flora: The Expeditions of Benjamin Leigh Smith, England's Forgotten Arctic Explorer” and “Life and Death on the Greenland Patrol, 1942 (New Perspectives on Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology).”

At 2:30 p.m., Jaelyn Eberle from the University of Colorado will present “Life at The Top of the Greenhouse Eocene World – the Eocene Vertebrate Fauna and Flora in Canada’s High Arctic.” Eberle is an associate professor of geological sciences, director of the museum and field studies graduate program, and curator of fossil vertebrates, at the University of Colorado’s Museum of Natural History. Her research focuses on the study of mammalian faunas during past intervals of climate change as well as the recovery and evolution of mammals following the mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. Her field research on fossil mammals has taken her all over the Rocky Mountain Region and Canada's High Arctic.

Polar Day activities will culminate with the screening of Anthony Powell’s film “Antarctica: A Year on Ice” at 3:20 p.m. It is a visually stunning film that conveys the experience of living in Antarctica for a full year, including winters isolated from the rest of the world, while enduring months of darkness in the harshest place on Earth. Powell has been working in Antarctica with his wife Christine for many years, and after more than 10 years of filming, his documentary is now complete. It has been screened at numerous festivals around the world and has won many awards. Powell has had his work appear in numerous films, exhibits, and television shows. He most recently was featured in the Emmy Award-winning BBC series Frozen Planet. This is his first feature film.

The Polar Center provides a platform for Penn State's world-renowned faculty in life, physical, and social sciences to communicate to the broader public the unique beauty and increasingly urgent scientific and cultural value of the Arctic and Antarctic. The Polar Center is a partnership between the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, the Eberly College of Science, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Additional sponsors for Sartore’s lecture include the Ecology Institute, Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Rock Ethics Institute and Schreyer Honors College.

Due to over whelming early demand, tickets for both the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and the sound demo of the polar water animals in the McCoy Natatorium are no longer available.

For more information, contact Pernille Sporon Boving or visit

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