The Wayne Theatre Science Talks series returns on Tuesday. The series is about the South River and is a follow-up to last year’s series.

Science talks at the Wayne, which will take place through March, start at 7 p.m. and are sponsored by the local Center for Coldwaters Restoration, the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the South River Science Team.

This year’s theme is “The South River – Transformation to Sustainability.”

“It was really well-received [last year] so we decided to do it again and highlight the South River and study it,” said Tom Benzing, board member of the Center for Coldwaters Restoration and the Virginia Museum of Natural. “Last year we talked a lot about it from a historic perspective. This year we’re talking more about what we understand the ecology to be like now and how we can transform it.”

While the talks are centered on the South River, they also branch out to include a larger picture. Topics also will touch on the Grand Caverns, sustainability for bats, bees and more.

On Tuesday, Dan Cristol, professor of biology at William & Mary, kicks off the series with “Discoveries about Mercury and Birds in the South River Floodplain.”

“My talk will be a summary of a decade of research into how the mercury contamination of the South River and Shenandoah River watershed have affected the birds of the Shenandoah Valley,” Cristol said. “Using a variety of traditional and cutting-edge techniques, scientists have determined the pathway from contaminated river sediment to birds, and identified the ways in which the mercury harmed the birds.”

The research measured the extent of mercury contamination, the number of birds affected and the severity of the effects on baby birds.

“This research was instrumental in reaching a settlement between the polluter and the regulators responsible for protecting birds,” Cristol said. “The presentation will illustrate parts of this entire process in a way that will be non-technical and hopefully stimulate further discussion and appreciation of the areas rich birdlife.”

Other Tuesday science talks include:

» Oct. 15: “Grand Caverns and the Karst Geology of our Region” with Josh Rubinstein and Scott Wahlquist.

» Nov. 12: “Sustainable Habitat for Bats”, with Rick Reynolds, wildlife biologist, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

» Jan. 14: “Sustainable Habitat for Bees and Other Pollinators” with Kal Ivanov, curator for invertebrate zoology at Virginia Museum of Natural History.

» Feb. 11: “Protecting and Restoring the Cowbane Prairie Wetland Reserve” with Tyler Urgo, Shenandoah Valley Region steward, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

» March 17, 2020: “Stream Restoration in the Shenandoah Valley” with Brock Reggi, a stream restoration specialist with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

For more information, visit waynetheatre.org/signature-speaker-series, or call 943-9999.

The Wayne Theatre is at 521 W. Main St. in downtown Waynesboro.

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