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World-renowned nature photographer visits campus, advocates environmentalism

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Christian Ziegler speaking at Marquette.

Christian Ziegler speaking at Marquette.

Photo by Isaiah Gencuski

Photo by Isaiah Gencuski

Christian Ziegler speaking at Marquette.

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Photo by Isaiah Gencuski
Christian Ziegler speaking about his nature photography to an audience at Weasler Auditorium.

Christian Ziegler, a world-renowned nature photographer and regular National Geographic contributor, spoke on campus Sept. 7, sharing photos and stories from his 20-year career. He spoke at length about his photography, which he considers a form of environmental activism.

Marquette launched the new environmental studies major last year, with 20 students currently enrolled. This year the group hosted several events to advertise the program. 

Ziegler’s presentation at the Weasler Auditorium Wednesday was the largest of several events promoting the new major.

“There is a reason why I chose to be a nature photographer. I want to tell the story of the cassowary and the bonobo,” Ziegler said. “I hope to inspire people to be amazed by all of it. The beauty of our natural world, its complexity and fragility.”

Stefan Schnitzer is the director of the environmental studies program at Marquette. He and Ziegler first met nearly 20 years ago in graduate school in Panama. After graduation, the two went down very different paths, pursuing research and photography, respectively.

Schnitzer believes that Ziegler’s strong biological background is what makes him such a skilled photographer. 

“You need to know the science of the environment, but that alone isn’t enough,” Schnitzer said. “You need to know the environmental economics which controls environmental policy.”

Demand for jobs in the environmental sector is rising, according to a 2015 survey by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The environmental studies major is designed to give students a more well-rounded understanding of the environment, and learn beyond the science lab.

The concept of an environmental studies program is nothing new. In fact, seven of the nine other BIG EAST universities already offer majors or minors in environmental studies. Schnitzer said that the demand for an environmental studies major at Marquette over the past few years has been overwhelming.

“The students coming into Marquette want this major,” Schnitzer said. “There seems to be a pent-up demand for people who are interested in the environment and how to study the environment.”

Karin Gredvig, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, is enrolled in environmental studies. She transferred to Marquette from another university after learning about the new major.

“It is truly interdisciplinary,” Gredvig said. “This major really makes you think about the environment in every way.”

Schnitzer said he believes that the major is not only good for students, but it is also for the university.

“Marquette wants to do this. There’s a clear need for (environmental awareness) in society, and the pope and the Jesuit church are clearly talking about this,” Schnitzer said. “This is something that is a no-brainer for Marquette.”

Over the next several years, Schnitzer hopes to expand the program, giving students more options and opportunities in the study of the environment.

“We’re really happy that Marquette is so supportive of this area of study and that Marquette is viewing this as a mission,” he said.

 

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