Bonnie Epstein Silverman
Bonnie Epstein earned an undergraduate degree in Geology/Biology from Brown University and a PhD in Geological Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island. Her interests lie at the junction of science, art and education. As a principal investigator for the New England Aquarium (Boston) for more than seven years, she helped develop, implement and evaluate programs and exhibits for informal scientific education. During that time, she served as director for the New England Aquarium’s Newport Exploration Center – a small science museum in Newport, RI currently run by Save The Bay – and led the Aquarium’s NSF-funded exhibit on jellyfish as environmental indicators (Amazing Jellies).
Epstein currently teaches a solution-based geology course at RISD entitled Environmental Disasters and Design Solutions. She also founded and continues to work on the Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA), an initiative to create a hands-on, interactive museum in Rhode Island to inspire curiosity in older children and adults.
Academic areas of interest
Epstein is currently focused on the power of images to educate and influence public opinion on scientific issues, as well as the efficacy of hands-on, open-ended Informal Science Education in inspiring curiosity and continued interest in experimentation.
Fall 2023 Courses
ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTERS AND DESIGN SOLUTIONS
The goals of this course are threefold:
(1) to explain how the natural world works, and how humans physically change and are changed by some of its processes
(2) To emphasize how society understands, evaluates and confronts the dangers posed by these natural processes
(3) To encourage students to view the unique sets of problems caused by flooding, earthquakes, tsunami, climate change and other earth functions as challenges demanding intelligent and creative solutions that they are equipped to deliver.
Case studies of recent natural disasters and design solutions will be discussed, and students own creativity and concepts for potential design solutions will be employed. No prior science background is required.
Open to Sophomore, Junior, Senior or Graduate Students.
Wintersession 2024 Courses
THE SCIENCE OF ALTERNATIVE ENERGY
This course focuses on how humans use energy and how our needs can be met using green methods. We will briefly cover the energy of the past (wood, coal, water, animal etc.), alternatives to this energy (nuclear, fuel cells, biofuel etc.) as well as the renewing of some old techniques (wind, water, solar etc.) The goals of this course are threefold:
(1) To understand how and why humans currently use energy
(2) To understand how traditional energy production has been used to satisfy these needs and how alternative energy addresses the same needs
(3) To develop innovative alternatives to traditional energy production or uses.
This course will include a final project design solution to an aspect of one of the energy issues touched on in class. Two field trips will be scheduled to view alternative energy in action. No prior science background is required.
Spring 2024 Courses
GLOBAL WATER CRISIS
Cape Town, South Africa is predicted to be the first major city to run out of water. Day Zero, when the taps will run dry, is expected in Spring 2018. How did we get here, and how do we fix it? Learn the science behind the planet's water and how humanity interacts with it. We will examine the causes and results of drought, salt-water contamination of wells and streams, shrinking aquifers and more. The goals of this course are threefold:
(1) To clarify how water works in earth's systems
(2) To outline how humans interact and leave their mark on every step of these cycles
(3) To encourage students to understand these water issues as challenges in need of the intelligent and creative solutions that they are equipped to deliver.
No prior science background is required.
UNDERSTANDING THE INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF NATURAL SCIENCES
How do the soil, bedrock and water create habitat for living things? What are the roles that diverse living (and dead) organisms play in an ecosystem? We will explore the myriad of ways in which the natural sciences of geology, ecology, botany and zoology can inform our awareness of the world around us, including the problems we create in the environment. This course aims to show -- in lecture, lab and field -- how understanding basic natural sciences, and the connections they illuminate, can open our eyes to the natural diversity around us. Through careful observation, both during class and on their own, students will create ways to communicate the intricacy of these networks.