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Popular UW Lecture Series Scheduled in Cody Oct. 28

October 19, 2017
photos of Daniel Tinker, Kara Pratt and Phil Roberts

The University of Wyoming’s one-day free public lecture series, featuring diverse topics from UW professors, will be offered in Cody for the first time Saturday, Oct. 28.

Saturday U -- the half day of college lectures and discussion -- will be in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Coe Auditorium. The program begins with coffee and donuts at 8:30 a.m., followed by welcoming remarks at 8:50 a.m. The guest lectures begin at 9 a.m.

Participants may attend one, two or all three lectures. A free lunch and question-and-answer session will follow the program at 12:30 p.m.

“During the fall and spring terms, Saturday University visits locations throughout Wyoming discussing today’s most captivating topics,” says Saturday U Coordinator Paul Flesher, a UW religious studies professor.

In its ninth year, Saturday U is a collaborative program that connects popular UW and Wyoming community college professors with lifelong learners. Offered nine times a year -- twice each in Jackson, Gillette and Sheridan, and once in Rock Springs, Pinedale and Cody -- Saturday U is sponsored by the university, the UW Foundation and Wyoming Humanities. The program is presented locally by UW, Wyoming Humanities and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. 

“Enjoy three intriguing lectures delivered by professors from the University of Wyoming,” Flesher says. “Complimentary lunch is provided, giving participants an opportunity to engage with the speakers during a roundtable discussion following the three lectures.”

Listed below are program topic descriptions and professors lecturing:

-- 9 a.m.: “Did Shoshone Cavern National Monument Become Just Another Hole in the Ground? A Case Study in State/Federal Debates over Control of Public Lands,” Phil Roberts, UW Department of History professor.

Shoshone Cavern National Monument, five miles from downtown Cody, became Wyoming’s second national monument soon after it was discovered by Ned Frost and his dog in the early 20th century. The cavern mouth’s location, unfortunately, made access difficult, even with horses. Development as a tourist site never overcame this problem, Roberts says. After years of conflict between the National Park Service and Cody residents, Congress delisted the monument and transferred it to the city of Cody.

“The result could have been a model for the success of local control over former federally owned lands,” Roberts says. “But, instead, the story forms a cautionary tale of how local towns often are unable to manage public lands any better than the federal government -- and these failures often result in damage of the resource.”

-- 10:15 a.m.: “How the Brain Learns to See: Studying Tadpoles to Understand People,” Kara Pratt, UW Department of Zoology and Physiology associate professor.

Brains process information through neural networks, but a new brain contains masses of neurons without connections. Pratt will discuss how the proper connections are made.

“The study of Xenopus tadpoles -- whose see-through skin lets us view the brain directly -- reveals how the brain creates itself by self-assembling neurons into networks that transform external stimuli from the environment into internal perceptions,” Pratt says. “One key discovery is that visual experience -- the act of seeing -- actually guides the precise wiring up of the visual system.”

Pratt will describe her research and explain what it reveals about the nature of human sight.

-- 11:30 a.m.: “Will We Ever Have Beautiful Forests Again? Bark Beetles, Resilience and Future Forests,” Daniel Tinker, UW Department of Botany associate professor.

The intermountain West’s bark beetle epidemic that began in the late 1990s is unprecedented in recorded history. Its intensity and geographic scale have been overwhelming, and it continues today in many forests of the western United States, Tinker says.

“The ramifications for such an intense and prolonged epidemic are far-reaching, and many are not well understood, especially considering the changes in our climate happening at the same time,” he says.

Tinker’s lecture will explore the bark beetle phenomenon, its ecology and management, and the resilience of current and future forest systems.

For more information, call Flesher at (307) 766-2616 or email For more information about Saturday U, visit the website at

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