A Planet and Its People

Robert V. Duncan

Dr. Robert Duncan,
Vice Chancellor for Research

ON CHRISTMAS EVE, 1968, Astronaut Bill Anders managed to negotiate the cramped confines of the Apollo 8 command module and focus the lens of his Hasselblad 500 EL through the spaccrafts’ forward window. The mundane celestial occurrence Anders recorded — our blue planet rising above the surface of the moon, just as it had done many millions of times before — created a sensation back on Earth. Our world, luminous and alive against the black void of the cosmos, had never before seemed so beautiful, or so vulnerable.

The photographs of MU journalism alumnus Peter Essick, featured on the cover and inside this issue of Illumination, elicit similarly strong emotions. In his images of pristine wild places and depictions of humankind’s transformative impact on the natural world, Essick at once communicates the power of our species to understand, protect and preserve, and to ignore, injure and exploit our global environment.

Over the course of his 30-year career shooting for National Geographic and other magazines, Essick has documented many environmental failures. But, as you’ll see, he remains confident that a combination of public education and scientific acumen may yet preserve what’s best about our beautiful blue planet.

In this issue you’ll also encounter additional uniquely skilled experts providing important insights into essential issues. You’ll discover how chromosomal variations account for the uniqueness of calls among otherwise identical-looking tree frog species, and what these genetic differences tell us about the process of natural selection. You’ll learn how years of study and scholarly persistence have allowed an MU psychologist to change the way mental health professionals keep youthful offenders out of trouble; and how term-limit laws may be leading to a different kind of trouble in our state legislature. You’ll see how a new way of picturing blood vessels is poised to advance cardiovascular health. And you’ll come to understand how, 150 years ago this July, visionary legislation in Washington, D.C. breathed new life into a war-scarred University of Missouri.

From the University’s earliest days, countless scientists, scholars and creative professionals have labored to advance the prospects of both planet and people. After reading this issue of Illumination, I think you’ll agree that it’s an effort worth celebrating.

Robert V. Duncan

Vice Chancellor for Research

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