The Ethics of Vaccine Allocation; The 1st Battle of Makin Island; The Field Day Lab; A View Ahead for Climate Change

For March 24, 2021

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Hi WN@TL Fans,

Ever since the first covid vaccine got emergency use authorization on December 11, a lot of us have been channeling Alexander Hamilton:  we’re not throwing away our shot.

Once we got the appointment date, we made sure that we weren’t gonna miss our shot, even if we had to drive 10 or 20 or 30 miles or more to get it.  For those of us who got the Pfizer or the Moderna, which require a shot & a chaser, we weren’t gonna miss that second shot.  For those of us lucky enough to get the J&J, we could be like the Ohio State basketball team in the men’s NCAA tournament:  one and done.

Having a vaccine on hand is one thing;  deciding the order of who gets it is another; dealing with regional, state and national issues is a third.  Such logistical questions come with ethical tangles that knot together our values, our priors, and our priorities.

Tonight, March 24, Paul Kelleher of Philosophy speaks on “The Ethics of Vaccine Allocation” as part of the “UW Philosophers at Work” series of the Department of Philosophy.

Description:  Drawing on first-hand experience as a philosopher-bioethicist who has helped to write state- and hospital-level allocation guidelines during the pandemic, Paul Kelleher will discuss the ethics of equitable vaccine allocation.

Bio:  Paul Kelleher is Associate Professor of Bioethics and Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His teaching and research explore ethical and philosophical dimensions of public policy, especially health policy and climate change policy. He co-chairs the Advisory Committee for UW–Madison’s University Health Services, serves on the UW Hospital Ethics Committee, and has served on two state-level committees concerned with the allocation of scarce COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.



On March 31, Bill Belcher of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Anthropology will share the saga of “The Recovery and Identification of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion: The First Battle of Makin Island.”

Description:  During the early days of World War II, Col. Evans Carlson trained two battalions of US Marines in guerilla warfare and amphibious assault.  In August of 1942, those skills were put to the test in an assault on a Japanese Seaplane base on Butaritari Island (aka Makin Island) to divert resources from the main objective on Guadalcanal.  In the aftermath of this assault, 30 US Marines were killed, but left behind during the hasty retreat.

In 1999, the precursor to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, the US Army Central Identification Laboratory located and excavated the remains of 19 of these Marines (along with one local islander).  Using standard forensic techniques and the then innovative analysis of mitochondrial DNA, all 19 individuals were identified and returned to their families.  This presentation will briefly go over the history and excavation of the site, but primarily focus on the techniques used to identify the individuals.

Bio:  I am a forensic anthropologist and archaeologist, but also an environmental archaeologist with a specialty in animal bones from archaeological sites-zooarchaeology. I am interested in understanding the application of forensic anthropological methods to the identification of human remains. These are important to the families and friends of descendants as forensic anthropology brings the identification back to a family for closure of an emotion and situation of loss. We attempt to recover possible human remains restore the identity to loved ones through research-based forensic science. As the Coordinator for the Graduate Certificate in Forensic Anthropology, I welcome students at the undergraduate and graduate level to learn the identification techniques and processes as a service-based discipline as UNL.

I have worked in two disparate areas of research, one as an environmental archaeologist and the other as a forensic anthropologist/archaeologist. My environmental archaeology program focuses on the analysis of ancient (3rd and 4th millennium BCE) fish remains and their modern counterparts. This will allow us to examine significant changes in fishing, butchery, ancient trade, as well as climate change.

After retiring from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, my primary focus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is to provide opportunities to learn and conduct research related to the identification of missing US service members in conjunction with the Scientific Analysis Directorate Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, NE.


UW-Madison MIA Recovery & Identification Program:


On April 7 David Gagnon of the Field Day Lab,  part of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research,  will be here to share the latest on how building online-games is connecting teachers & students and speeding learning & evaluation during this pandemic year and beyond.


On April 9 we’ll have a special Friday Nite Edition of Wednesday Nite @ The Lab with Tracey Holloway of the Nelson Institute and Bassam Shakhashiri of Chemistry sharing with us their points of view on what’s ahead in grasping & dealing with climate change.  This special edition is part of the 19th Annual UW Science Expeditions campus open house April 9-11.


 Online April 9-11

This week the crocus are croaking and the peepers are peeping, but come April 9-11 we’ll have the equally-happy sounds & sights of the 19th Annual UW Science Expeditions Campus Open House to tune into.  Experience science as probing the unknown at your public, land-grant research & extension university.  You can check out the schedule of online and self-guided outdoor events at

Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!

Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H