Enjoy the New Topics lecture series that runs every year from October through April and features a slate of renowned speakers.

New Topics 2021-2022

The 2021-2022 season of New Topics is a five-part lecture series showcasing regional and national speakers from a broad range of disciplines exploring topical issues. The series runs October through April. The 2022 winter and spring lectures will be virtual and/or in-person. Each Zoom lecture begins at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time on the date listed; tickets are $10. Reservations can be made below or by calling the New College events hotline at 941-487-4888.

Thursday, October 21

From Competitors to Bromance: Using Science to Understand Male Gorilla Social Behavior
With Dr. Austin Leeds

Western lowland gorillas are familiar—we see them in zoos across the country, but we know very little about them in the wild. Particularly, we know almost nothing about how males form and maintain social relationships and bond with other male gorillas. In this lecture, Dr. Leeds will discuss why male gorilla behavior is so fascinating while diving into two novel studies that have helped unravel the mysteries of male gorilla behavior and social relationships. Dr. Leeds looks forward to sharing how we can use these findings to provide optimal welfare for gorillas in zoos and how this information improves our understanding of their natural history in the wild.

Dr. Austin Leeds earned his Ph.D. in biology from Case Western Reserve University where his research focused on the behavior and social dynamics of western lowland gorillas in zoos, particularly within all-male bachelor groups. While working towards his Ph.D. he was a research associate in the Conservation and Science Division of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, where he conducted animal behavior and welfare research and collaborated with NGOs in Rwanda and Uganda on conservation education and scientific capacity building projects. He is now a research manager for Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, overseeing research focused on animal behavior and welfare at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Seas with Nemo and Friends.

Thursday, November 18

The Waterkeeper: A Watershed Approach to Environmental Advocacy
With Justin Bloom

From its beginnings as a ragtag group of commercial fishermen and environmental advocates to its current alliance of over 350 groups connected throughout the globe by the fight to ensure that all communities have access to drinkable, fishable, and swimmable waters, the Waterkeeper movement has developed an effective model of community based environmental advocacy. Justin Bloom will talk about the Waterkeeper Alliance’s history and some of its key successes while sharing his experiences as a lawyer and environmental advocate working to protect communities from pollution and over-development. He will also discuss some of the most pressing needs and challenges and share his thoughts about what is needed to protect waterways and the communities that rely on them.   

Justin Bloom ‘87 is the founder and the board vice-chair of the Sarasota-based Suncoast Waterkeeper. He is an attorney with significant experience developing and directing programs and projects for environmental groups in addition to decades of legal practice focusing on environmental issues. Bloom also serves on the board of Tampa Bay Waterkeeper and Waterkeepers Florida, which represents 14 Waterkeeper organizations throughout Florida. Additionally, he serves on the board of the Florida West Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council and has been a member of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program’s Citizens Advisory Committee for nearly a decade, currently serving as chair. Bloom graduated from New College of Florida in 1991 with a BA Environmental Studies. He completed his law degree at Tulane University in 1996. Bloom’s legal practice over the last 25 years has focused on public interest environmental law, as well as toxic tort and class action pharmaceutical plaintiff’s litigation. During that time, he has worked on staff with Hudson Riverkeeper as an investigator, staff attorney and project manager and Waterkeeper Alliance as a director. Bloom lives in Sarasota with his wife and two children.

Thursday, February 10

Rescuing the Planet: The Race We Can Win to Save a Million Species
With Tony Hiss

The earth faces two environmental emergencies brought about by human actions. The reality of the climate crisis became inescapable for many people during the unprecedented wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and droughts in the summer of 2021. Though equally grave, the second crisis, the extinctions crisis—which threatens the lives of a million species of plants and animals—has remained more hidden and out of the headlines. Fortunately, there is some hopeful news: the extinctions crisis has a solution, and in 2022 the whole world will assemble to face this growing calamity.

“Half Earth” is the shorthand name for what needs to be done. The science is clear: most species can survive if at least half their original habitat is protected over the next 30 years, and so the goal is 50 x 50—protect half the earth by 2050. In May 2022, 196 countries will meet in China to take the first big step: 30 x 30, 30% by 2030.

Tony Hiss’s beautifully illustrated talk, based on his book, Rescuing the Planet: Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth, published to excellent reviews in 2021, presents the problem, the solution, and his own further reasons for optimism. Traveling around North America from Canada to Mexico, from the Rockies to Florida, he met with extraordinary people and groups that, years before the China meeting, were already working tirelessly and inventively to save our continent’s beloved landscapes and iconic species. Hiss also shares information about the many ways anyone can join this movement.

Tony Hiss is the author of 15 books, including the award-winning The Experience of Place. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine for 30 years, and a visiting scholar at New York University for 25 years.  He lives in New York City with his wife, the writer Lois Metzger.

Monday, March 14

A Queer Zionism: Jessie Sampter and the Paradoxes of Jewish Nationalism
With Sarah Imhoff

The young, unmarried Jessie Sampter embraced a Judaism her parents had rejected, bought a trousseau, drolly declared herself “married to Palestine,” and moved there in 1918. Jessie Sampter’s own life and body hardly matched typical Zionist ideals: while Zionism celebrated the strong and healthy body, Sampter spoke of herself as “crippled” from polio and plagued by sickness her whole life; while Zionism applauded reproductive (women’s) bodies, Sampter never married or bore children—in fact, she wrote of homoerotic longings and had same-sex relationships we would consider queer. How did a queer, “crippled” woman become a leading voice of American Zionism, and why has history largely overlooked her?

Sarah Imhoff, author of Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism, is an associate professor in the Borns Jewish Studies Program and Religious Studies Department at Indiana University Bloomington.

Thursday, April 21, 5:00 p.m.

The Many Angles of Shark Conservation

With Jayne Gardiner and Melissa Cristina Márquez ’11

This event will be virtual. Please note the time for this event has changed to 5 p.m.

New College professor Dr. Jayne Gardiner and alum Melissa Cristina Márquez explore how both research and outreach are vital when determining the fate of one of our planet’s oldest predators: sharks. Gardiner and her students use advanced tagging techniques to identify local nursery areas and study how young sharks use these habitats, which are thought to be critically important for management and conservation, especially for threatened and endangered species. This work informs the selection of future marine preserves and protected areas for imperiled species. Across the world in Australia, PhD candidate Márquez also uses marine technology to understand shark habitat use (such as underwater video cameras and drones). Once she pinpoints the most critical environments for sharks here, she figures out how the local community feels about sharks by analyzing ongoing media coverage and how their attitude can lead to conservation success or failure in the area. Is there hope for these rapidly disappearing animals? By joining forces, perhaps.

Melissa Cristina Márquez is a Ph.D. candidate at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. She is interested in what environmental factors influence the composition and distribution of elasmobranchs using a variety of marine technology. Márquez is the author of the Scholastic series “Wild Survival” and hosts the podcast ConCiencia Azul. Márquez has served as a host on various science-themed shows on BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and OceanX. Her articles appear regularly in Forbes Science and has also been featured in The Washington Post, USA Today, People Chica, and GQ. Márquez is a Forbes “30 Under 30” honoree, and was listed as one of InStyle’s “BadAss Women for 2021.”

Jayne Gardiner is an associate professor of biology and director of the Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center at New College. She specializes in the sensory biology and behavior of fishes. Gardiner’s research focuses primarily on multisensory integration – understanding how animals use multiple sensory cues simultaneously to perform complex behaviors such as feeding, navigation, and homing. She is also interested in how fish learn to use sensory information and how human activities and environmental disturbances affect sensory perception and behavioral performance. Her research employs both laboratory and field-based techniques to study these questions in elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and rays), as well as bony fishes.

Purchase Tickets


Reserve your tickets here. Online registration closes 24 hours before the event. To purchase tickets, please call (941) 487-4800.

We are grateful for our 2021-2022 New Topics media sponsor


The fair market value of the goods and services provided at these lectures has been valued at $10 per person; as such, no portion of your ticket purchase will be tax-deductible.