Presenter Biosketches

Diane Ackerman — celebrated interpreter of science and nature — is the author of two dozen highly acclaimed works of nonfiction and poetry, including The Zookeeper’s Wife and A Natural History of the Senses ― books beloved by millions of readers all over the world. In prose so rich and evocative that one can feel the earth turning beneath one’s feet as one reads, Ackerman’s thrilling observations urge us to live in the moment, to wake up to nature’s everyday miracles.

Her most recent book, The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us (Norton, 2014), won the 2015 PEN New England Henry David Thoreau Prize for literary excellence in nature writing for a book that “celebrates the natural world and human ingenuity, while exploring how the human race has become the single dominant force of change on the whole planet;” it was also a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book of 2014. In The Human Age Ackerman declares, “Our relationship with nature has changed…radically, irreversibly, but by no means all for the bad. Our new epoch is laced with invention. Our mistakes are legion, but our talent is immeasurable.”

The Zookeeper’s Wife (2008) tells the true story of Antonina and Jan Zabinski, Christian directors of the Warsaw Zoo during WWII, who saved over 300 doomed Jews, hiding many of them in the zoo cages. The Zookeeper’s Wife was a New York Times Bestseller for 54 weeks. Speaking deeply to readers of all ages, it received the Orion Book Award and has been chosen as a Freshman Reads and Community Reads book in many. A full length feature film of The Zookeeper’s Wife, starring Jessica Chastain and Daniel Bruhl, will be released on March 31, 2017.

One Hundred Names for Love was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Books for a Better Life Award. It tells the story of Ackerman’s work to bring her husband back from the depths of aphasia after he suffered a terrible stroke, and was described by the Washington Post as “an ode to playfulness and the brain’s plasticity…a testament to the power of creativity in language, life—and love.”

Other nonfiction titles include Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day, a book about “waking up” to each passing moment; An Alchemy of Mind, a poetics of the brain based on the latest neuroscience; Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden; Deep Play, which considers play, creativity, and our need for transcendence; A Slender Thread, about her work as a crisis line counselor; The Rarest of the Rare; and The Moon by Whale Light, in which she explores the plight and fascination of endangered animals; A Natural History of Love; On Extended Wings, her memoir of flying.

Inspired by A Natural History of the Senses, she also hosted a five-hour PBS television series of the same name. While humans might luxuriate in the idea of being “in” nature, but Ms. Ackerman has taught generations that we are nature—for “no facet of nature is as unlikely as we, the tiny bipeds with the giant dreams.”

Ackerman’s poetry has been published in leading literary journals. Maxine Kumin says of it, “I know enough to know when I’m in the presence of a brilliant mind. Her acrobatic poems are full of fact and exuberance.” Her poetry books are Origami Bridges: Poems of Psychoanalysis and Fire; I Praise My Destroyer; Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems; Lady Faustus; Reverse Thunder: A Dramatic Poem; Wife of Light; The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral.

Her essays about nature and human nature have appeared in The New York Times, Smithsonian, Parade, The New Yorker, National Geographic, and many other journals, where they have been the subject of much praise. She is also an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.She also writes nature books for children. Those titles include: Animal Sense; Monk Seal Hideaway; and Bats: Shadows in the Night.

Diane Ackerman was born in Waukegan, Illinois. She received an MA, MFA, and PhD from Cornell University and has received many prizes and awards, including a D. Litt. from Kenyon College, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the John Burroughs Nature Award, and the Lavan Poetry Prize, as well as being honored as a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library. She has taught at a variety of universities, including Columbia and Cornell. She also has the rare distinction of having a molecule named after her — the dianeackerone.

Rebecca Alban Hoffberger is the founder, director and principal curator of the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). A life-long devotee of the power of intuition and fresh thought, Hoffberger was accepted into college at age 15, choosing instead mime Marcel Marceau’s personal invitation to become his first American apprentice in Paris. By 19, she had co-founded her own ballet company and by 21, was a sought after consultant to a broad spectrum of non-profits, including research and development scientific companies. At 25, Hoffberger was awarded the title of ‘Dame’ for her work to establish medical field hospitals in Nigeria. She studied alternative and folk medicine in Mexico. Returning to the states, Hoffberger served on the Board of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Center in Virginia and worked as Development Director at the Sinai Hospital Department of / Psychiatry for People Encouraging People, Inc. where she first conceived her unique national visionary museum/education center.

In recognition of distinguished achievement in the museum field, Hoffberger was awarded the 2011 Katherine Coffey Award by the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums. Hoffberger has received Honorary Doctorates from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Stevenson University, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, and McDaniel College, as well as awarded Loyola College’s Andrew White Award, the College of Notre Dame Sarah’s Circle Award, and selected as Franklin & Marshall’s Conrad Nelson Lecturer. She is an inductee of The Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, a winner of the Urban Land Institute’s National Award for Excellence, Israel Bonds’ Golda Meir Award, and the first recipient of the Sir Arthur C. Clarke Vision and Imagination Award. Among many honors in recognition of her human rights activism, Hoffberger has won the On Our Own mental health national anti-stigma Visionary Award, the Urban League’s Whitney M. Young, Jr. Honoree for Outstanding Community Involvement & Support for Equal Opportunity, Maryland YWCA President’s Award, and was principal curator celebrating playwright’s Eve Ensler’s BIG LOVE New Orleans 10th Anniversary of ‘Vagina Monologues’ raising $50 Million to help global women anti-violence programs. Hoffberger's Seven Education Goals provided the founding mission for the young activist organization, The Lower Eastside Girls Club, New York City. She has been an international keynote conference speaker at The Tate Modern and at India's Rock Garden.

The titles to Rebecca’s exhibitions sum up beautifully both her personal philosophy and passion: “ALL FAITHS BEAUTIFUL: From Atheism to Zoroastrianism, Respect for Diversity of Belief,” “The Marriage of Art, Science & Philosophy,” and “Race, Class & Gender: Three things that contribute ‘0’ to CHARACTER, because being a schmuck is an equal opportunity for everyone!"

Jon Brouchoud leads Arch Virtual’s development team, an agency located in Madison that develops virtual reality applications for business and education. His passion is using virtual reality technologies to solve real world problems. He has over 20 years of experience in professional practice and has won numerous awards and competitions for his work in 3D development.

He holds a Master’s Degree in Architecture, and his work has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, Architectural Record, and the Chicago Tribune. He has completed virtual applications for American Family Insurance, the NBA Sacramento Kings, Autodesk, the U.S. House of Representatives, Chic-fil-A, California Closets, U.S. Bank and many others.

E. Kelly Fitzsimmons is a well-known entrepreneur who has founded, led and sold several technology startups. Recently, she co-founded Custom Reality Services, a virtual reality production company whose first project, Across the Line, premiered at the New Frontier program of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. She is also the co-founder of the Hypervoice Consortium, which researches the future of voice communications. Previously, she was the co-founder and CEO of HarQen. Prior to launching HarQen, she founded Sun Tzu Security (1996), an information security firm, which merged with Neohapsis (2003), where she led the combined company as CEO through 2006. Cisco acquired Neohapsis to enhance its information security offerings in 2014.

In 2011, the Angel Capital Association awarded her the Silvertip PwC Entrepreneurship Award. In 2013, Speech Technology magazine honored her with the Luminary Award. She is a regular contributor to Information Week and Inc. magazine. Recently, several of her Inc. articles were published in an anthology Been There, Run That. She serves on the board of the Executive Women’s Forum, the largest member organization serving female executives in the Information Security, Risk Management and Privacy industries. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Rochester and holds a master’s degree from Harvard University.

William (Bill) Linton founded Promega in 1978 and has served continuously as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. A life science research company, Promega has grown from one employee to a global corporation, employing over 1,300 people worldwide. Today, Promega serves customers in over 100 countries, with direct sales and manufacturing branches in 16 countries. Initially supporting university researchers, Promega now serves scientists in basic research, drug discovery, forensics and clinical diagnostics. The company continues to be privately held with revenues of $380 million.

Collaboration and partnering continue to be cornerstones of the Promega model. In the late 1980s, Promega established, through joint venture, several of the earliest biotechnology companies in the People’s Republic of China. Promega continues to promote and support partnering in order to best serve customers and ultimately facilitate scientific discovery.

That same philosophy extends to community support, both local and global. In 1991, Promega established Woods Hollow Children’s Center (WHCC), providing infant through school-age childcare for the local community as well as Promega employees. In 1993, the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTC Institute), a non-profit educational, scientific and cultural institute, was established. Promega has long been a financial supporter of various arts and education pursuits as well. As an employer, Promega is recognized for creating an “employee as individual” workplace, acknowledging and supporting work-life balance and nurturing personal and professional creativity and innovation.

Bill has served on a number of industry, government and community boards. He is currently a member of the board of directors of the Analytical, Life Science and Diagnostics Association (ALDA), Bruker Biosciences, BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute, and Heffter Research Institute.

Bill received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley in 1970 and conducted post-graduate work in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He holds honorary doctorate degrees from Hannam University, Daejon, South Korea and in 2015 received an honorary doctorate of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Joseph McMoneagle,CW2, US Army Ret., CStS is internationally renowned as a master rmote viewer and author of four books on remote viewing – Mind Trek, Remote Viewing Secrets, Ultimate Time Machine and Memoirs of a Psychic Spy. He also coauthored a book with his Russian Military counterparts titled – ESP Wars, East and West. Joe has 47 years of professional and scientific expertise in research and development within numerous multi-level technical intelligence collection systems and in the field of the paranormal and the social sciences. He was an R & D consultant to Stanford Research Institute – International and Science Applications International Corporation, Inc., where he participated in protocol design, statistical information collection, evaluations, thousands of remote viewing trials in support of both experimental research as well as active intelligence operations for what is now known as Project STAR GATE.

Joe is co-owner of Intuitive Intelligence Applications, Inc., which provides support to multiple research facilities and corporations involved in a full range of collection applications using Anomalous Cognition (AC) in the production of original and cutting-edge information. He is a full-time research associate with the Laboratories for Fundamental Research, Cognitive Sciences Laboratory, Palo Alto, California; where he has provided consulting support to research and development for 36+ years. Because of this background, Joe is well-versed with developmental theory, methods of application and current training technologies for remote viewing and other research and development areas within the paranormal arena, as currently applied under strict laboratory controls and oversight.

Joe has successfully demonstrated his abilities as a psychic and remote viewer under strict scientific control in various labs, universities and on national television networks in six countries, to include: National Geographic, Discovery Channel, BBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Channel 4 England, Nippon and Ashai TV in Japan.

Joe now shares his expertise by facilitating the Remote Viewing Program at The Monroe Institute (TMI) which trains participants to acquire and describe information seemingly separated from the “viewer” and his or her physical senses by distance, shielding and time. It is Joe’s goal during teaching, to insure participants leave his program with a much deeper understanding for what remote viewing is, and a very large percentage of those attending will walk away knowing they had remote viewed under double-blind conditions and have tools to do so in the future.

Joe is a full member of the Parapsychological Association, a Life Member of the Disabled American Veterans, a performing member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG), a full member of The Writers Guild of America – East (WGA-E), and a member of The Authors Guild (AG). He is a retired Chief Warrant Officer in the Regular Army of the United States of America. He currently serves as a board member for the J. B. Rhine Research Center, Durham, North Carolina; and is on the board of advisors for The Monroe Institute and the Anomalous Phenomena Research Center, New York.

In addition, Joe is a trained multi-media artist and Sculptor; a Blacksmith; a Virginia Master Gardener; a Contractor; licensed Ham Radio Operator; and a Gunsmith. His hobbies are fishing, reading, and exploring the woods near his home.

Jason Padgett is a number theorist with Acquired Savant Syndrome from Anchorage Alaska, currently living near Tacoma, Washington. He was a struggling futon salesman for decades until a traumatic event changed the path of his life forever and started his art and math career. He is now a professional speaker and published author in over 20 countries, including serving as a TED Speaker in 2015 and TEDx Speaker in 2016. His autobiography Struck by Genius, co-authored with Maureen Seaberg, is being adapted as a major motion picture by Sony Pictures and Channing Tatum. Jason's art has been displayed in People Magazine, Ghostbusters (2016), Entertainment Weekly, Popular Science, Wired, CBS This Morning with Gale King, The London Times NBC, CBS, FOX news, the hit show Perception, and at Oxford University, and ABOMB Bakehouse at Art Basel Miami Beach. It has been included in books, music albums and on television programs in over 60 countries. His drawings are used to teach difficult mathematical concepts in any easy-to-understand way.

The beauty of numbers and their connection to the pure geometry of space time and the universe is shown in his fractal diagrams. When he first started drawing he had no traditional math training and could only draw what he saw as math. Eventually a physicist saw his drawings and helped him get traditional mathematics training to be able to describe in equations the complex geometry of his drawings. He is currently a mathematical and philosophical artist, a lecturer and a student of mathematics. Jason lives in Federal Way, WA with his wife and three daughters.

Steve Paulson is the Executive Producer and one of the founders of To the Best of Our Knowledge. He has been a contributing writer for Salon and has written for Slate, Huffington Post and other publications. His radio reports have also been broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered. His book, Atoms and Eden: Conversations on Religion and Science, was published by Oxford University Press in 2010.

John Preston, R.Ac, M.Ac
I was born on February 6 ,1954 in Vancouver, British Columbia, to Canadian military parents. Educated in Canada, England & Washington DC. I graduated from Concordia university in Montreal with an honours BA in Communication Arts in 1975. I was awarded a Canada Council grant for fine arts photography in 1976 where I found myself more interested in "who sees" than what is seen. This looking led me to photograph in South East Asia, where I first encountered monastic Buddhism.

There are few joys in life that can compare with the privilege of being able to follow ones "seeking instinct" with full attention, 24 hours a day, week after week, month after month, year after year. That is the privilege that being an ordained Buddhist monk gave me for five years in the East. I reluctantly returned west due to radical health events and practiced for three more years in an American Buddhist community. (Tofu was only a modest improvement over outright starvation]. The quest to regain my physical health led me to acupuncture and the five element dynamics of traditional Chinese medicine, which I then studied full time from 1985 to 1990. As part of my studies at that time I also embarked on an ongoing and very useful course of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. I have been in private practice using acupuncture and meditation to promote health and inner awareness in my clients and community ever since.

In the mid 90's a friend took a trip to Nepal from where she insisted she would bring me a present. While in a shop containing Tibetan Singing bowls in Katmandu she was approached by the proprietor of the shop with whom she had not yet spoken. (He himself turned out to be the world’s leading recording artist of Tibetan bowls ).He addressed her thus, "madam, you have a colleague at home to whom you have promised a gift, this singing bowl I am offering you now is that gift. Please take it to him with my blessing. It will change his work." She did and it has.

Tibetan seven metal bowls are profound objects whose healing frequencies can adapt to each individual. The combination of sound immersion and acupuncture has been my practice for more than 20 years now. I have been conducting sound meditation groups for 16 of those years. In 2008 I completed a one hour documentary on Theravadin Buddhism. "In Search of Nirvana" is a tribute to my teachers and a tool for meditators to which they may return again and again.

No one can make insight happen. But we can prepare the environment in which it's arising is more likely. Useful words, useful sounds, and useful sensations, contemplated at the right time can help do that. Awareness wants to arise.

Louie Schwartzberg is an award-winning producer, director and cinematographer whose notable career spans more than three decades providing breathtaking imagery for feature films, television shows, documentaries and commercials.

As the only filmmaker in the world who has been shooting time-lapse 24/7 continuously for well over three decades, Schwartzberg is a visual artist breaking barriers, connecting with audiences, and telling stories that celebrate life and reveal the mysteries and wisdom of nature, people and places.

Louie is credited by many with pioneering the contemporary stock footage industry by founding Energy Film Library, a global company, which was acquired by Getty Images in 1997.

His recent theatrical releases include the 3D IMAX film “Mysteries of the Unseen World” with National Geographic, narrated by Forest Whitaker, and “Wings of Life,” a feature-length documentary for Disneynature, narrated by Meryl Streep.

Schwartzberg’s “Mysteries” film is a journey into invisible worlds that are too slow, too fast, too small and too vast for the human eye to see. In partnership with the National Science Foundation, Lockheed Martin, and Siemens, this film opened nationwide Fall 2013 to rave reviews from audiences and experts alike.

Using time-lapse, high-speed and macro cinematography, Schwartzberg offers audiences an intimate and unprecedented high-definition glimpse into the hidden world of butterflies, hummingbirds, bats and bees in his “Wings of Life” film, including the precarious relationship these pollinators have with flowers – a third of the world’s food supply depending on these increasingly threatened species.

After its theatrical premiere, “Wings of Life” is now available on Blu-ray and DVD through Amazon and On-Demand through Netflix. This extraordinary film has won numerous kudos including Best Theatrical Program at the Jackson Hole Science Media Awards, the Best Cinematography Award at the Ocean Film Festival, and Wild Talk Africa’s Roscar Award.

In addition to his feature films, Schwartzberg also curates Moving Art™, the world’s first collection of 2D and 3D moving images created as fine art for digital screens, from nature to cityscapes to visual effects. Designed to inspire, educate and perhaps even evolve our perspective on the world, Moving Art™ is now available on IPTV devices such as Roku, mobile devices via the iOS and Android platforms, and as an Original Series on Netflix – the first 4K content to appear on that channel. Several Moving Art™ film shorts have gone viral – including the hits “Gratitude” and “Beauty of Pollination” with 44MM+ YouTube views – which have spawned successful related projects such as books (Hay House, Sterling) and webinar series (MentorsChannel, John Templeton Foundation). Custom 4K resolution Moving Art™ pieces created by Schwartzberg can also be found in high-end hospitality venues around the world.

Schwartzberg is distinguished as an artist and a pioneer who transformed 35mm time-lapse photography into an arresting art form made available for the first time to feature films and other content platforms. His stunning nature, aerial and slice-of-life imagery has transformed films by such directors as Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Haggis and Ridley Scott, including “American Beauty,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Crash,” “Erin Brockovich,” “E.T.,” “Independence Day,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Koyaanisqatsi,” “Men in Black,” “Twister” and countless others.

As the founder of BlackLight Films, Schwartzberg brought us projects like “America’s Heart & Soul,” for Walt Disney Pictures, the “America!,” 26-episode half-hour series for The Hallmark Channel; and the one-hour “Chasing the Light” documentary that aired on PBS and numerous other channels.

A coveted speaker worldwide for inspirational corporate and nonprofit audiences, Schwartzberg is also active in the TED community. Videos of two of his most recent TEDx talks are regularly cited among the top-watched TEDx talks of all time. An MFA film school graduate of UCLA, he both chaired and served as executive director of the Action! Vote Coalition and served on the board of the Earth Communications Office and the Environmental Media Association. He is a member of both the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences.

Over his long trailblazing career, Schwartzberg has earned myriad awards and honors including two Clio Awards for Best Environmental PSAs, an Emmy nomination for Best Cinematography (“Oceans of Air” on the Discovery Channel), a Truly Moving Picture Award from the Heartland Film Festival (“America’s Heart & Soul”) and Best Film–Inspiration at the Ocean Film Festival (“Gratitude”). He was recognized as one of the “Top 70 Cinematographers” for the On Film Kodak Salute Series. Schwartzberg was also recently honored and humbled to receive the NAAPC Pollinator Protector award.

For Schwartzberg, the greatest satisfaction is creating works that can have a positive effect on the future of the planet. “I hope my films inspire and open people’s hearts. Beauty is nature’s tool for survival – you protect what you love. If I can move enough people on an emotional level, I hope we can achieve the shift in consciousness we need to sustain and celebrate life.”

Andrea Stevenson Won is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. She received her PhD in Communication from Stanford University, where she was advised by Professor Jeremy N. Bailenson in the Virtual Human Interaction Lab. She studies how media changes people’s perceptions of the physical world, focusing on immersive media such as virtual and mixed reality.

Previous to academia, she was the sole proprietor of Biomodal, a company focused on bridging the gap between digital and physical models in biomedical communication. She worked with researchers and clinicians to prototype novel interactions for patient care and medical education.

Malynn Utzinger is a physician and teacher of contemplative practices at Promega Corporation, Usona Institute and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work began in nutrition and Integrative Medicine and has grown to focus on the development and wellbeing of the Mind. In the early 1990s, she was launched in this direction through her work in San Francisco and Tucson with pioneers in mind-body medicine Dean Ornish, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Andrew Weil, and later, after residency and fellowships in Family Medicine, Preventive Oncology and Integrative Medicine in Madison, she returned to San Diego and then New York, where she was the Director of Women’s Health for the Chopra Center and consulted at the Eileen Fisher world headquarters on mindfulness, Ayurveda and other mind-body practices for cultivating wellbeing. Drawing on her studies in human development, Malynn’s work has moved steadily into a focus on practices that can bring vitality and aliveness to the people who make up the heart and soul of business. Teaching the fundamentals of emotional and social intelligence along with basic practices for physical health—most importantly mindful or “contemplative” exercise, which nourishes mind and body together—are the cornerstones of her work. Always using everyday life as the greatest of eachers, Malynn delights these days in being the mom of a four-year-old boy, which calls her into one of life’s most lively dances. She is on the path, with all of humanity, learning to be present with humor, love, discipline and purpose at work and at home.