Evolution Exhibits, Darwin Days

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Charles Darwin died almost 135 years ago, though his legacy is living on in the science community.

North Dakota State’s Darwin Days took place this past weekend to celebrate Darwin’s 208th and his work.

Darwin, an English naturalist and geologist, is best known for his significant contributions to the science of evolution through a process known as natural selection.

Darwin Days 2017 began with the Hall of Biodiversity and Herpetology Zoo, an exhibit in the atrium of the A. Glenn Hill Center.

Sub-samples of collections from various departments and clubs were shown at the Hall of Biodiversity.

Jessie Rock, a geology lecturer within NDSU’s department of geosciences and an organizer of the HoB, said that showing physical pieces of collections gives people a better understanding of how evolution works.

Rock described the necessity of viable evidence, such as fossils, when making geological and biological discoveries.

Julia Bowsher, an assistant professor of biological sciences who has worked with Darwin Days since 2010, said the HoB is a way to celebrate the diversity on this Earth, an idea appreciated by Darwin.

Rock said she was impressed with the turnout of visitors to the exhibit, crediting the location of the event with bringing in additional traffic.

In addition to NDSU students passing through, guests of the HoB included students who were given extra credit for their attendance, NDSU faculty members with their children and those simply interested in learning more about the natural sciences.

This year, around 150 7th grade life science students from Ben Franklin Middle School were bussed to NDSU for the event as the content pertained to their current chapters in class.

A movie was shown, cake to celebrate Darwin’s birthday was served and a keynote address by Kristi Curry Rogers was given.

Rogers is an associate professor in the biology and geology departments at Macalester College whose work has been featured by media including Nova Science, the National Geographic Channel and the Discovery Channel.

Saturday’s events occurred at the Fargo Public Library. There events were geared toward families and included a presentation by Becky Barnes, a paleontologist at the North Dakota Geological Survey, a game and a Darwin look-alike contest.

Bowsher and Rock said a lack of venues in Fargo from which to present collections and ideas of evolution as reasons for the first Darwin Days at NDSU in 2009.

“We started having Darwin Day because evolution is a very important idea, it’s important to biologists. This is our chance to share our excitement about evolution and the power of this theory,” Bowsher said.

Rock said response from members of the community who attended the events was positive, with many citing a need for a natural science museum as a venue to permanently exhibit the natural sciences in the Fargo community.

Rock said she hopes Darwin Days will help students understand that they are all part of the story of evolution.

“We are all part of the animal kingdom and evolved to become human,” Rock said. “While it is easy to accept that various cats are related to each other, some people find it difficult to accept that we are great apes. Humans share approximately 99 percent of their DNA with chimps and bonobos.”

The event was by the departments of biological sciences and geosciences, as well as the College of Science and Mathematics.

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