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Rhett Butler visits the University of Texas

Rhett Butler, Founder and CEO of the nonprofit environmental journalism website Mongabay, visited UT Austin from September 12-14th. Rhett gave three public lectures, all of which are now available on our Youtube page.

Rhett discusses the plight of endangered species in his talk "The State of the World's Tropical Forests" on September 14th, 2023.

On Tuesday, September 12th, Rhett presented "Science Communication Lessons from 20+ Years of Running Mongabay," sharing his key insights into how to drive engagement and action for stories that matter. We also heard from Jill Parish at the UT Green Fund about how students and others on campus can tap into Green Fund support for sustainability-focused projects that benefit the university community. After the talk, Rhett had lunch with grad students and post-docs from across university departments.

Rhett speaks with student in the class "Covering the Environment" ahead of his lecture and Q&A at the School of Journalism.

On Wednesday, Rhett met with Professor John Schwartz's journalism class, "Covering the Environment," and fielded questions from young reporters. Rhett then had lunch with members of the Department of Geography and the Environment and affiliates of the Brazil Center who work on issues of tropical conservation and development.

Rhett addresses "The State of Environmental Journalism" with Texas Tribune reporter Keaton Peters on September 13th, 2023.

That night, students, faculty, and the interested public gather at the G. B. Dealey Center for New Media to hear more from Rhett. Erik Iverson, founder of the Texas Tropical Network, gave a brief introduction about the network and why it's important to center research and stories from the global tropics in an age of climate change, pandemics, and conservation crises. Rhett then gave a lecture on "The State of Environmental Journalism," followed by a conversation and audience Q&A moderated by Keaton Peters, a Texas Tribune reporter and School of Journalism grad student.

Station manager Jason Lawson shows Rhett an old-growth pecan tree amidst the drought at Brackenridge Field Lab.

On Thursday, Rhett visited UT's Brackenridge Field Lab, an outdoor classroom and research station on Ladybird Lake with 80 acres of native Texas habitat available for ecological experiments by students, faculty, and visiting researchers. Led by station manager Jason Lawson, Rhett toured the experimental gardens, fish ponds, and diverse ecosystems that make Brackenridge an essential long-term resource for ecology in Texas.

Following the tour, Rhett gave a talk on "The State of the World's Tropical Forests," with a lively Q&A and refreshments provided by Fara Coffee. After the talk, the crowd walked to the Crown & Anchor Pub to continue the conversation about tropical forests and their conservation.

Friends gather at the Crown & Anchor Pub for conversation.

While our time with Rhett was limited, over 150 people got to interact with Rhett during his visit. Rhett made himself available for many events for diverse audience in different venues across campus, and we are grateful for the inspiration he provided to all of us who work on conservation and sustainability. If you enjoyed these talks and want to see more like this in the future, or simply want to join our email list, get in touch with us at!

The Texas Tropical Network hosted Rhett and coordinated his visit with support from the UT Green Fund, the UT Brazil Center, the UT Biodiversity Center, the School of Journalism and Media, and Fara Coffee. Staff in the Departments of Integrative Biology and geography and the Environment as well as the School of Journalism and Media were instrumental in the success of these events. We thank them all.

We hope to see you at our next event!




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