An outside view of Peeve’s Public House & Local Market located in the Fulton Mall in Downtown Fresno. Katie Eleneke / Collegian File Photo

A pub of science talk

Peeve’s Public House & Local Market in downtown Fresno has become a monthly gathering location, but not for a band or sporting event, rather a science lecture – Café Scientifique.

The Central Valley Café Scientifique began in 2007 as part of a larger international network which started in the United Kingdom in 1995.

Dr. Madhusudan Katti, a biology professor at Fresno State, began organizing the lectures after he was approached by members of the community about hosting informal science talks. Then Café Scientifique was born.

The most recent lecture, held Sept. 14, was about a species of primate called lorises and entitled, “A Precarious Nightlife of an Ancient Primate in a Modern City.”

Dr. Kaberi Kar Gupta, an adjunct professor in the biology department, gave the lecture on the primates.

Gupta studied the Slender Loris for about a decade in the forests of Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in southern India.  Her current research is studying the ecology of places where people and wildlife live alongside each other.

Gupta said that the intention of the lectures is to take science out of the classroom.

“It is to promote science communication and culture of science among community members in a more informal setup than school or university campus,” Gupta said.

Gupta stated that initially the lectures were to be held in various locations around Fresno and Clovis, but it was hard to find locations that were not noisy and could also accommodate a large crowd.

“When Peeve’s Pub opened, Craig Scharton was very enthusiastic about hosting a public event like this one to promote science and knowledge,” Gupta said.

Tricia Van Laar, a new microbiology professor at Fresno State, attended the lectures for the first time in September.

“I thought it would be kind of fun to see science in a community setting, because we always see science in a science setting,” Van Laar said.

Fresno State biology professor Ulrike Muller not only goes to the lectures, but she had even given one in the past.

Muller said that the lectures had been given at other locations, but that Peeve’s was by far the best.

“It works so much better when it’s in an informal setting like a pub rather than in the banquet room of a formal restaurant,” Muller said. “It’s just a whole different atmosphere.”

The banquet setting, Muller said, made people feel like they had to be in dinner-speak mode.

“That just gets snooze, and I hate it when it gets snooze,” Muller said.

It was the first lecture for Fresno State graduate student of biology, Andrew McClary.  He said he heard about the lectures from his professors, and he also thought the venue was great.

“I thought it was really interesting,” McClary said.  “It was really cool to hear about some different science that’s going on.”  

Café Scientifique has lecturers every month, except in the summer, from Fresno State, UC Merced, UCSF Medical Center, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and once a year from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

The next Café Scientifique, which takes place outside of the traditional academic context, will be held Monday at 7 p.m. at Peeve’s. There will be a discussion about the scientific understanding of the autism spectrum.