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The Chapman Visiting Scholars Series returned to the Nicholas Academic Centers on Saturday, September 27, with Dr. Jason Keller’s presentation, “Everything You Need to Know About Environmental Science (in Two Simple Reactions).” Alongside Dr. Keller, nearly 40 NAC students explored two simple bio-chemical reactions — photosynthesis and respiration — to understand how they influence a number of environmental issues ranging from ecosystem carbon cycling to climate change.
 
After sharing the equations for photosynthesis and respiration, Dr. Keller challenged students to use carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements to figure out which type of organisms were hidden in three mystery boxes. Students created line graphs to monitor the patterns of CO2 concentrations measured in the boxes over time.
 
Before students could guess the mystery organisms, they had to understand the difference between heterotrophs, such as omnivores and detritivores (decomposers) who gain their energy by consuming other organisms (or decaying organic matter), and autotrophs, such as plants that use an external energy source like the sun to produce their own organic matter. Students learned that heterotrophs produce carbon dioxide through respiration while autotrophs consume it through photosynthesis, though they also respire. Dr. Keller noted, “If you leave here today understanding that every single cell needs to respire, and that includes plants, you will know more about ecology and environmental science than something like 95% of the world.”
 
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