Clark College Faculty Speaker Series
Birds, Bees and Biodiversity:
Clark's Faculty Speaker Series Celebrates Earth Week
A standing-room-only crowd packed the Penguin Student Lounge – including the second
floor area overlooking the lounge – as ecologist and biology professor Kathleen Perillo
described how food choices impact the planet during the college’s second Faculty Speaker
Held on April 25 during Earth Week, “Birds, Bees and Biodiversity” drew guests from
throughout the college and the region. The discussion was also recorded by Fort Vancouver
Television (FVTV), which planned to share audio highlights with KBOO radio.
Inspired by her sabbatical experiences, Perillo organized the Center for Eco-dynamic
Agriculture – an organization that promotes a new way to grow crops that encourages
biodiversity. She told those in attendance how to become “locavores” by determining
the environmental benefits to eating local, organically farmed food. She also discussed
the differences between polyculture (growing many crops) and monoculture (growing
one crop) farming. Perillo said, “Each of us has the power to promote or reduce biodiversity
in our own kitchens and in the simple everyday food choices we make.”
Perillo also tackled a challenging issue: which is more sustainable if you have to
make a choice – local or organic. Perillo said, “The more sustainable food choice is local food, even if it’s not produced organically. Obviously, the best choice for a healthy planet
is local, seasonal and organic. But if you have to make a choice and want to choose
with sustainability in mind, you should select local/seasonal foods over organic.”
She added, “Many small farms cannot afford to get certified organic but are using
sustainable growing techniques and we should support those farms if we want to sustain
the quality of life in our own regions.”
Perillo offered “10 Ways to Support a Sustainable Food System”:
- Choose foods that are grown and processed locally.
- Buy from farmer’s markets, co-ops, community supported agriculture, and encourage
your market to carry local products.
- Buy organic foods as much as possible.
- Buy in bulk with the least packaging.
- Purchased food that has been processed as little as possible.
- Eat less meat and dairy, choosing grass-fed, organic or free-range items.
- Buy products that have been fairly traded to guarantee farm workers and food handlers
a living wage.
- Grow your own and cook at home.
- Spread the word with family and friends.
- Eat seasonal and celebrate each season’s bounties with delicious long anticipated
About Kathleen Perillo
Kathleen Perillo joined the faculty of Clark College in fall 1999 as a tenure-track
faculty member in the biology department. Perillo, who received tenure in 2002, teaches
a variety of courses in biology and environmental science. Her areas of expertise
include wildlife biology, environmental biology, general ecology and birds.
Kathleen Perillo has worked with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in
support of western pond turtle recovery activities in the Columbia River Gorge. Perillo
followed this state endangered species for several years (2000-2004) using radio-telemetry
techniques to asses their habitat use and survivorship as they were reintroduced into
the Columbia River Gorge.
Prior to coming to Clark College, Perillo spent 14 years in the field of environmental
education. Working with students of all ages, in pre-kindergarten classes through
mature learning, she taught at nature centers and environmental education centers
in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
Kathleen Perillo is co-founder and president of the Center for Eco-dynamic Agriculture,
a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting biodiversity in agriculture. She
promotes sustainability in her own life by, in her words, “living simply in a modest
straw-bale house in the gorge with my dogs and cats.” She also supports local markets,
grows an organic garden each year and assists with all aspects of her partner’s organic
vineyard, where grapes are grown to produce small batch organic and sulfite free wines
which are sold locally in the Columbia River Gorge and Vancouver/Portland areas.
Kathleen Perillo has a bachelor’s degree in physical geography from the University
of Delaware and a master’s degree in environmental science from the University of
In her free time, she enjoys hiking, traveling, gardening and wildlife watching.