“Sustainability is arguably the biggest challenge we face in the 21st century,” says Michael Willig. It’s not just about sustainability, though. “Probably the most important questions we have to answer are not if a system is sustainable, but if it is desirable,” says the Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “We have many paths we can take in our stewardship, but science doesn’t tell us which of those paths to take per se — it’s human values that guide us. I don’t think that each of us fully understands how we might marshal those perspectives and ways of knowing to the common good.”
Willig also directs UConn’s Institute of the Environment — tasked with bringing together science, the humanities, and social science to chart a course to a greener world. One of the many things the Institute is doing to help students find such perspectives and paths is getting them into the field with research programs abroad. A partnership with the Organization for Tropical Studies allows students from around the world to take UConn courses at three field stations in Costa Rica and one in South Africa.