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Evolutionary Transformations: The Legacies of Two Influential Scientists on Evolutionary Thought

Evolution Symposium and Workshop
November 2, 2012
1:00pm - 5:00pm
Hyatt Regency, Dallas, TX

Description

AIBS, the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center - NESCent, and BEACON - the Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, are cosponsoring the ninth annual evolution symposium at the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) Professional Development Conference.

The event will highlight the impact of two transformational thinkers in evolutionary biology who died in 2011: Lynn Marguils and Jim Crow. The symposium will begin with an overview and historical perspective of major transitions in evolutionary biology, followed by two scientists who are proteges of Margulis and Crow and can speak to the impact of their mentors' work. The symposium will close with a talk on the future of evolutionary biology and the roles of Margulis' and Crow's works in helping shape that future.

The symposium will be followed on Saturday morning by a workshop that will provide teaching materials and strategies to teach evolution.

Registration

To participate in either the symposium or workshop, you will need to register for the NABT Conference (Saturday registration is free!). Here is the link to NABT conference registration: http://www.nabt.org/websites/institution/index.php?p=10 Contact Susan Musante, AIBS Education Programs Manager, at smusante@aibs.org with any questions.

Symposium Speakers

Lynn Nyhart

Six Major Transitions of Evolutionary Thought
Lynn K. Nyhart
Professor, History of Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI

In the history of modern biology, no concept has been more transformative than Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. However, the conceptual elements we associate with modern evolutionary theory did not originate as a package in Darwin's 1859 Origin of Species, but rather emerged piecemeal, both before and after his revolutionary work. Nyhart will highlight six major transitions of evolutionary thought, situating each in its historical moment of emergence and then pointing to its continuing role in later research. As each was incorporated into a larger picture, it changed the overall meaning of evolution and refocused the attention of evolutionary biologists toward different research problems. These cases show that even the most fundamental biological ideas continue to take on new meanings as scientists absorb novel information and ways of thinking about nature.

Lynn Nyhart

Natural History as the Ground Truth for Molecular Biology
Betsey Dexter Dyer
Professor of Biology
Wheaton College, MA

Before there was biology, there was natural history and its most passionate followers (such as Charles Darwin) were great collectors and namers and observers and perhaps most importantly classifiers of their collections, names and observations. Is there any purpose to such activities in modern biology? Some might say no; Richard Dawkins reminds us that we humans are afflicted with brains that love categorization and that much of our endeavors to collect, sort and name are due to the "tyranny" of our "discontinuous minds." And thus we miss the continuous flow of evolutionary change. The true (or at least modern) picture of a phylogenetic tree is a blur of horizontal transfers, promiscuously connecting even the most distant branches; this is one of the great revelations of DNA sequence analysis. Perhaps it is time to abandon all such notions of classification. Or perhaps not, as will be argued in this talk. Natural history (complete with its nomenclatures) is a "ground truth" for DNA phylogenies, which need that anchoring. Nearly all interesting hypotheses that can be investigated by DNA sequences originate with observations of the natural world and with communications about those observations which in turn are best conveyed with a framework nomenclature. Perhaps there is an emerging opportunity to celebrate our discontinuous minds and our tendency to classify to excellent use in providing intriguing hypotheses for molecular phylogenies.

Patrick Phillips

Mutation, Sex and Genomic Evolution
Patrick Phillips
Professor of Biology
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Mutation ultimately drives all evolutionary change and therefore plays a fundamental role in understanding classic questions like why does sex exist, as well as more recent questions like how is natural variation structured at the level of whole genomes? In this talk, Dr. Phillips will highlight some of the insights and approaches to these questions pioneered by James Crow and his students, using his own work in experimental evolution and genomics to illustrate how far our thinking has come in the last 60 years - and where the new revolution in genomic technology is taking us now.

David Hillis

The Unexpected Practical Applications of Evolutionary Biology
David Hillis
Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor, Section of Integrative Biology
The University of Texas at Austin, TX

The work of James Crow and Lynn Margulis helped shape public understanding of the concepts of mutation and macroevolution, respectively. This understanding has fueled many practical applications of evolutionary biology in recent years: from the field of forensics, to human health, to new methods of detecting and understanding Earth's enormous biodiversity.

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