History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences


Lucy Spelman

Lucy is a biologist with an unusual background: she is one of a handful of veterinarians certified in zoological medicine. Her patients have included giant pandas in China, Asian elephants in Burma, giant river otters in Guyana, and mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She is also a writer and an educator with a keen interest in exploring new ways to use the arts to communicate and interpret science.  In 2008, she published her first work of creative nonfiction,"The Rhino with Glue-on Shoes," a collection of 28 short stories; her contribution gives the book its name. In October 2012, she published her second book in collaboration with National Geographic Children's Book Division, a new edition of "The National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia."  Lucy is currently part-time faculty in the Liberal Arts Division where she teaches biology, a unique position that allows her to collaborate with artists and designers. So far she has developed and taught three new courses at RISD: the Biology of Human-Animal Interactions, Evolutionary Biology and the Art of Communicating Science.  She is also a course developer for middle and high school teacher professional development for the Rhode Island Technology Enhanced Sciences (RITES) program, the Exotics Specialist at Ocean State Veterinary Specialists in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, and a member the Karanambu Trust Board of Trustees in Guyana, South America.  Lucy also coordinates and promotes science and science studies within Liberal Arts.  The Liberal Arts Science for Art and Design Education Courses (2014-2015) Catalog provides a complete listing of these courses.

Academic research/ areas of interest

Lucy enjoys teaching biology to any and all who are interested in animals, nature, health and wildlife conservation. Her passion for science education and outreach stems from her experiences as the director of the National Zoo at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and as the field manager for the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Rwanda. She also has considerable experience in the realm of science communication, both as the subject of various news interviews and television documentaries, and as a media consultant for the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and National Geographic.  She is also a frequent public speaker.  Her research interest is in the area of one-health medicine, an emerging field of study that examines the interactions between animal, human and environmental health.