Marine Lab’s Brian Silliman Delivers Video Lectures for Thousands of High School Students

October 19, 2016

Contact: Tim Lucas, 919/613-8084,

DURHAM, N.C. – Video lectures on coastal ecology by the Duke Marine Lab’s Brian Silliman are enriching the science curriculum for tens of thousands of students at schools nationwide this fall.

The videos, which Silliman recorded earlier this fall, are part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Holiday Lectures in Science series, an initiative that brings cutting-edge research by some of the world’s leading experts into middle-school and high-school classrooms across the United States.

The recorded lectures, which can be viewed on You Tube, help students and teachers bridge the gap between outdated textbook materials and the newest and most important scientific discoveries being made today.

HHMI invites the world’s most respected and influential scholars and researchers to record lectures for its Holiday series. Past videos have been by luminaries such as Peter and Rosemary Grant, E.O. Wilson, and Sean Carroll.  

A widely cited expert on coastal ecosystems, Silliman is the Rachel Carson Associate Professor of Marine Conservation Biology at the Marine Lab, which is part of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.


Rachel Carson Associate Professor of Marine Conservation BiologyBrian R. Silliman

He teamed with river food-web expert Mary Power, professor of integrative biology at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, to record four new Holiday Lectures on “Ecology of Rivers and Coasts: Foodwebs and Human Impacts.”  

Silliman recorded two lectures for the series. One covers his lab’s pioneering field experiments on the roles climate stress overfishing and pollution have played in triggering recent large-scale die-offs of coastal wetlands worldwide; the other covers Silliman’s research on the role top-down predation by herbivores plays in controlling salt marsh food webs.    

“It was an honor to be invited to take part in the Holiday Lectures series. I felt like I was walking in the footsteps of giants,” he said. “These lectures and the whole HHMI BioInteractive website are free and game-changing resources that can enrich middle- and high-school science throughout the world. They are on the web for anyone to use. In fact, an entire class can be taught on the lectures and the active learning tools that are also posted on the HHMI website. This resource can be particularly enriching for school with limited funding.””

Silliman is a marine ecologist whose meticulously executed field studies have reshaped decades-old scientific theories about how salt marshes and other coastal ecosystems work; the roles animal communities play in them; human impacts on them; and best practices for ecosystem restoration and the management of invasive species.
In recognition of his research achievements, he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2015; a Visiting Professor with the Royal Netherlands Society of Arts and Sciences in 2011l and a David H. Smith Conservation Fellow with The Nature Conservancy in 2004. He has also received the 2006 Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Naturalists, a 2007 Young Investigator Grant Award from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and an NSF Career Grant Award in 2011.