Meet the Scientists

Phil Plait, PhD

Phil Plait, Astronomer

Phil is an astronomer, author, lecturer, and highly sought-after public speaker. He has written two books — Bad Astronomy and Death from the Skies!, both of which are popular books about astronomy written for the public. He has appeared on many television shows, from “How the Universe Works” and “National Geographic Explorer”, to his own Discovery Channel mini-series “Bad Universe”, which he co-wrote and hosted. In 2011, he gave a TEDxBoulder talk about asteroid impacts which proved so popular that it was featured on the TED conference main page.

His blog, Bad Astronomy, hosted by Discover Magazine, is one of the most popular science blogs in the world, seeing 1.5 million page views per month. Phil is an engaging and enthusiastic speaker and a lifelong stargazer, always ready to take his telescope out on a clear night and show people the stars.





Holly Brunkal, PhD

Holly Brunkal

Holly Brunkal, Geologist

Holly Brunkal was at a great vantage point, on a hill just 60 miles south, when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980. A childhood spent hiking and camping around the volcanoes, lava fields, and rugged coastline of Oregon (and punctuated by an impressive eruption!) set her up for a life full of interest in rocks and geologic landscapes.

Holly studied Earth Science as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, and after some time traveling and teaching went back for a masters in Geology at CSU, Chico. After completing her master’s degree Holly moved to Colorado to be a visiting professor of Geology at Adams State College, and then became an adjunct professor at Western State College in Gunnison, CO. Knowing that a professorship was what she wanted to pursue she went back to school to get a PhD in Geological Engineering at Colorado School of Mines. Holly’s research is focused on debris flows, but she is interested in many aspects of geologic hazards (landslides, rockfall, avalanches, etc.) including the design of mitigation and protection systems for these events. She is an avid mountain biker in the summer and cross-country skier and snowboarder in the winter. Holly also enjoys hiking, especially with her two dogs, swimming, yoga and traveling. Holly has continued to seek out volcanoes in her travels including New Zealand, Hawaii, Ecuador, Italy, Alaska, Mexico, Costa Rica, and of course back in the Pacific Northwest.

Dave Armstrong, PhD

Dave Armstrong, Biologist

Dave Armstrong taught courses in ecology, evolution, zoology, environmental studies, “biology for poets,” and the history of science at CU Boulder from 1971 to 2009. He received teaching awards from the CU Student Alumni Association and the Boulder Faculty Assembly and also the Joseph Grinnell Award for Excellence in Teaching from the  American Society of Mammalogists.Dave was Museum Associate Curator (mammals) over his years at CU, and from 1987 to 1993 was Director of the University Museum.

In addition to teaching university courses, Dave has led field courses and workshops for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, The Nature Conservancy, Cloudridge Naturalists, the Rocky Mountain Nature Association, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the Gore Range Natural Science School, and a number of other educational organizations in Colorado and adjacent states.

An ecologist and biogeographer, Dave is particularly interested in the development (and conservation) of environmental patterns, and the origins and evolution of the mammalian fauna of interior western North America—the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, and Colorado Plateau. He is author or co-author of several books and numerous articles on mammals and their environments. He is author or co-author of several books and numerous articles on mammals and their environments, including a new edition of Mammals of ColoradoDave is Resident Naturalist at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch west of Loveland, Colorado, where he helps to manage the Ranch’s extensive conservation lands.

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