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Writer David Quammen, author of “Spillover,” and Montana State University scientist Raina Plowright will be featured in a virtual community forum about understanding the origins of pandemics set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26.

MSU’s Initiative for Science, Technology, Ethics and Society will host the virtual community forum, the first in a series of online forums focused on the science and ethics of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is free and open to the public and does not require registration. Participants can connect to the WebEx event from the STES Initiative’s webpage at

Kristen Intemann, director of the initiative and an MSU professor of philosophy, said the mission of the STES is to produce interdisciplinary knowledge and critical thinking about the social and ethical dimensions of science and technology through research, teaching and public engagement.

“With this community forum series, we want to create dialogue between researchers and members of the public about the science behind the virus, how it is impacting us at the local level and what we can do to combat it,” Intemann said.

Quammen is the author of 16 books, including “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic,” published in 2012. His articles have also appeared in National Geographic, Harper’s Magazine, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Book Review and other periodicals. A graduate of Yale University and the recipient of a Rhodes scholarship, a Guggenheim fellowship and a Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction, Quammen served at MSU as a Wallace Stegner Professor of Western American Studies from 2007 to 2009. He also has received an honorary doctorate from MSU. He lives in Bozeman.

Plowright is an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in MSU’s College of Agriculture and principal investigator in the Bozeman Disease Ecology Lab. Her work investigates the dynamics of disease systems that connect human and animal populations, integrating approaches from epidemiology, ecology and veterinary medicine. She directs a research group that focuses on pathogens that occur in wildlife but can spill over to domestic animals and humans, as well as infectious diseases that impact wildlife conservation.

The STES series will continue at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, when Blake Wiedenheft and Seth Walk, both MSU professors of microbiology and immunology, will discuss the work that MSU researchers are doing related to testing and surveillance of the coronavirus in the MSU and Gallatin Valley community.

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