December 1, 2023

6 to 8 pm

Happy New (Water) Year! A reflection on Water Year 2023 and a look ahead to 2024 

Are we still in drought?

Presented by Gigi Richard, Ph.D. 

The vitality of western Colorado relies on water. From growing amazing fruit to recreating on mountain snow and flowing rivers, water is the lifeblood of our communities. Recently, drought, declining reservoir levels, and the crisis on the Colorado River have been big headlines, but did the big snowpack of 2023 alleviate our crisis? Come learn more about Colorado’s water systems and current hydrologic status. 

Gigi Richard is an educator, water scientist, and civil engineer who is currently the Director of the Western Colorado Research Center at Colorado State University, one of nine research centers around Colorado that make up the Agricultural Experiment Station. Her 20+ year career in academia has included teaching and inspiring students about water, rivers, and GIS at Colorado Mesa University and Fort Lewis College.  Gigi’s research has focused on watershed hydrology in Colorado, from snowmelt-driven systems to intermittent desert streams, and human impacts on river systems in Colorado, New Mexico, and New Zealand. She holds a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Colorado State University, all in Civil Engineering with a water focus. 


December 29, 2023

6 to 8 pm

Chestnuts Not Roasting on an Open Fire: How Plant Diseases Shape our Holidays 

Presented by Charlotte Oliver, Ph.D. 

The holidays are a time filled with tons of activities like making decadent, chocolatey desserts, drinking cozy mulled wine, decorating with cheery  poinsettia greenery, and lyrics like “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”. But, who roasted chestnuts and why don’t we now? Can we still mull our wine with citrus next year? Join us to learn how plant diseases have and continue to change our holiday traditions. 

Charlotte Oliver is a plant pathologist and the current Viticulture Extension Specialist at Colorado State University. Her primary role is interacting with the Colorado grape industry and providing timely educational resources for commercial and backyard grape growers as well as evaluating the presence and control of grape diseases across the state. Charlotte received her B.S in General Biology, M.S., and Ph.D. in Plant Pathology with a focus on wine grapes from Virginia Tech. 


March 29, 2023

6 pm to 8 pm

More tasty or more toxic? How climate change affects alpine plants and the mammals that eat them.

Presented by Johanna Varner, Ph.D.

If you’re stressed about Colorado’s hot dry summers, you’re not alone. Pikas are potato-sized rabbit relatives that live in Colorado’s mountains, and they are also feeling the heat. But climate change also affects the pika’s favorite food plants, particularly their phenolics and tannins, the same compounds found in red wine. Will changes in temperature and snowpack make the pika’s food tastier or too toxic? Join us to learn more about Colorado’s cutest mountain mammal and our recent work to understand how their food is changing.

Johanna “Pika Jo” Varner is an educator, scientist, and science communicator in the Biology department at Colorado Mesa University. Her research seeks to understand how habitat features and climate affect the stress and survival of pikas in isolated populations, with the goal of identifying better ways to protect these special animals. Johanna received her B.S. and M.Eng. in biomedical engineering from MIT before pivoting to study mountain mammals and earning a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of Utah.