Darwin Year Celebrations at TU

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Departments of Biological Sciences and Geosciences will host several free events for the public this spring in honor of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book, “On the Origin of Species.”

From 1831 to 1836 Darwin sailed the world observing nature and asking questions that changed the modern world’s way of viewing the relationship among species. To celebrate Darwin’s scientific inquiry, TU will host two upcoming events featuring a primate behavioral specialist and an evolutionary paleontologist.

Ape behavioral specialist John Mitani will visit TU at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 in Helmerich Hall for his lecture "The Behavior of Wild Chimpanzees." Mitani is professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. Currently he studies an extremely large community of wild chimpanzees at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda.

During the past 28 years, Mitani has conducted fieldwork on the behavior of all species of apes: gibbons and orangutans in Indonesia, gorillas in Rwanda, bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and chimpanzees in Uganda and Tanzania. His lecture will address questions about ape social behavior and communication.

In March, TU will host paleontologist Donald Prothero at 7 p.m. March 11 in Helmerich Hall for his lecture, “Evolution: what the fossils say and why it matters.” Prothero, a professor of geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, specializes in studying the Cenozoic era – a period when the mammal population and diversity grew exponentially.

Prothero’s current research focuses on dating climatic changes that occurred between 30 and 40 million years ago, using the technique of magnetic stratigraphy, a method that looks at the history of polarity of Earth’s magnetic field to date fossils.

In addition to the two lectures, the Departments of Biological Sciences and Geosciences hosted a teacher’s workshop, “Teaching the Science of Evolution” on Feb. 14.

Both the Feb. 26 and March 11 events are free and open to the public. Helmerich Hall is located east of Delaware Ave. at 2900 E 5th St. For more information, please call the Department of Geosciences at (918) 631-2517.