A free public lecture will take place at the Varsity Theater tonight at 7 to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th Anniversary of Darwin’s publishing of “On the Origin of Species.“
The event was first initiated by Angus Chandler and Dena Grossenbacher, both members of the UC Davis Population Biology Graduate Group.
“We found it odd that UC Davis, being one of the premiere evolutionary research institutes in the nation, did not have anything planned for Darwin Day,” Chandler said.
The event, featuring two 35-minute lectures by Professors Maureen Stanton and Jonathan Eisen of UC Davis, is geared toward any “intellectually curious” members of the Davis community. The event, funded by the Storer Endowment, is being held at the Varsity Theater downtown in an effort to include the entire Davis community, Chandler said.
Others participating in the event are the Bohart Museum of Entomology, the Geology Graduate Group, Students for Environmental Education at Davis and the Museum of Fish and Wildlife. Davis High School students have also helped organize, providing posters and exhibits for the event under the direction of teacher Ann Moriarty.
Stanton, professor and chair of the UC Davis Evolution and Ecology Department, will discuss the evolution-intelligent design controversy. Eisen, professor of microbial genomics, will discuss evolutionary perspective as a relevant tool to modern science. The lectures will culminate in a question and answer period, followed by cake and celebration afterward.
Darwin, born 200 years ago this month, is known to many in the science community as the forefather of the concept of evolution.
“Evolution isn’t this esoteric science high in the ivory tower of academia,” Chandler said. “It comes up all the time in everyday life.“
Eisen believes Darwin’s theories hold up quite well today.
“For the non-scientist UCD students, whether or not they ‘believe‘ in evolution, if they want to make sense out of the living world, the best way is to incorporate information about evolution,” Eisen said in an e-mail.
UC Davis has long been a leading institution in evolutionary science. Since the advent of modern evolutionary synthesis, or the scientifically accepted account of evolution, and the work of G. Ledyard Stebbins, UC Davis‘ first chair of the department of genetics, UC Davis has been key figure in evolutionary research and ideas.
“A lot of cool work has come out of Davis,” Grossenbacher said. “This is in keeping with that tradition.“
Grossenbacher said much of the initial planning happened at the climbing gym. After speaking with Bradley Shaffer, director of the UC Davis Center for Population Biology, the event really took shape.
“It all came together really easily,” she said.
Chandler is excited about the future prospects the event might create.
“We would like to have this event spawn a series of lectures every two months to discuss current research topics at UC Davis,” he said.
Grossenbacher is also excited.
“Most of all, I hope it will be fun,” she said.
RONNY SMITH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.