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Think Evolution: A summer institute for science educators

Sponsored by UCMP, the National Center for Science Education, the Beacon Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, the Oakland Zoo, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Think Evolution IV: A summer institute for science educators

Calling all middle school, high school, and community college biology teachers and science educators!

Put on your evolution eyeglasses and your nature of science thinking cap and join us for (yet another) fun-filled five days of evolutionary explorations with biologists and educators at the University of California. The Think Evolution Summer Institute, returning for its fourth year, will combine lectures by prominent evolutionary biologists with sessions focused on hands-on activities for the middle school, high school, and community college classroom.

Monday through Friday, July 30–August 3, 2012
UC Museum of Paleontology, Valley Life Sciences Building, UC Berkeley
9:00 am to 3:00 pm

$75.00 for five days; includes lots of free resources distributed to participating teachers plus morning and afternoon snacks. Plus a trip to the zoo and a whole day of BEACON research and activities!

Institute schedule

Monday, July 30
8:15-8:30 am Registration
8:30-9:00 Coffee and munchies
9:00-9:30 Introductions and logistics
9:30-10:45 A conversation with Marlene Zuk, Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota
Sexual selection: Why males and females are different, except when they are not
In addition to his interest in the origin and diversity of species, Darwin was fascinated by sex. He saw that the variety of sexual differences, from gaudy peacock tails to loud cricket chirps, posed a conundrum: how could so many animals exhibit traits that actually seemed to decrease their ability to survive? Furthermore, why are males more likely to be the colorful or noisy sex? His answer was sexual selection, a process that is similar to natural selection, but depends not on survival but on the ability to win over members of the opposite sex. Darwin's idea has been controversial since its inception, and this talk will trace our understanding of the evolution of sex differences from Darwin to today. Using examples from insects, birds, mammals and more, I will explore how animals choose their mates and how katydids are exceptions that prove the rule.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Gail Patricelli, Associate Professor, Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California Davis
Sexual selection: Modern tools and new directions
One of the most striking aspects of Darwin's work is how much he got right — he not only laid the foundations for understanding natural and sexual selection, but he filled in many of the details. However, a great deal of progress has been made since Darwin's time, including our increased understanding of the process of mate choice and how it evolves. I will discuss hypotheses for the evolution of both elaborate sexually-selected display traits and the preference for these traits. I will also discuss how new tools and technologies have transformed the study of sexual selection. In particular, I will discuss how new approaches, such as the use of robotics, allow us to address complex interactions between animals choosing their mates.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Classroom activities focusing on sexual selection
Sarah L. Eddy, postdoc University of Washington
Tuesday, July 31
8:30-9:00 am Coffee and munchies
9:00-9:30 Morning warm up and logistics for the day
9:30-10:45 A conversation with Kevin Padian, Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley
How we study the origin of major adaptations: Bat flight as an example
The origin of flight is a big evolutionary adaptation, and only four groups have ever evolved it. But how did they evolve it? What was similar and what was different? Was gliding involved? Our approach asks how to construct hypotheses, how to test them, how to see if different lines of evidence agree or disagree, and how we'd know if we were wrong in our inferences.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, Director of Imaging, UCLA Cardiac Arrhythmia Center, UCLA Division of Cardiology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Zoobiquity: Bringing veterinary and evolutionary medicine to the human bedside
Zoobiquity presents comparative medicine as a new translational science, bringing knowledge from veterinary and evolutionary medicine to the human bedside. It considers the evolutionary origins and comparative biology of human medical concerns with the animal origins of health conditions such as sudden cardiac death, addiction, OCD, erectile dysfunction, STDs, and many other common human health concerns. Zoobiquity proposes an interdisciplinary, "species-spanning" approach to understanding common clinical concerns. It espouses a novel approach which not only expands how physicians understand disease in human patients, but holds hypothesis-generating and translational potential.
12:15-3:00 Lunch on the go, plus a field trip
Nan Ho, Biology Faculty, Las Positas College, will be taking us on an evolutionary tour of the Oakland Zoo.
Wednesday, August 1
8:30-9:00 am Coffee and munchies
9:00-9:30 Morning warm up and logistics for the day
9:30-10:45 A conversation with Brent Mishler, Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley
What, if anything, are species?
Though a definition of species appears in every biology textbook, it is actually one of the most controversial issues in evolutionary biology, ecology, systematics, and biodiversity assessment. Current entities ranked at the taxonomic level of "species" are not comparable in age, internal genetic diversity, ecology, morphological variation, degree of similarity, or the amount of interbreeding within or among them. At a time of rapid habitat destruction and climate change, the need for sound biodiversity inventories is critical. We need to do away with taxonomic ranks, including species, and focus directly on biodiversity discovery and understanding at many phylogenetic scales. New quantitative, phylogenetic measures for biodiversity and endemism, which take into account the number of branch points (and branch lengths) that separate lineages, can better guide conservation priorities than can lists of species names.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Mark Laidre, Miller Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley
Niche construction and the evolution of sociality and gossip: From crustaceans to humans
One of Darwin's greatest insights was that evolution can adaptively shape not only organisms' morphology but also their behavior. Yet what about the reverse: can organisms' behavior play a role in shaping the trajectory of evolution? This talk will explore this question by exploring "niche construction." Niche construction is a process of organism-driven environmental modification in which ecological changes brought about by organisms' behaviors can feedback evolutionarily, altering natural selection pressures. This talk will highlight the dynamic interplay between niche construction and natural selection, using examples from Darwin's own research on the humble earthworm, as well as two case studies from my own research: (1) home remodeling by terrestrial hermit crabs and the evolution of sociality and (2) fission-fusion societies in humans and the evolution of gossip.
Relevant reference: Niche Construction: The Neglected Process in Evolution. F.J. Odling-Smee, K.N. Laland, and M.F. Feldman. 2003. Princeton University Press.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Focusing on the process of science
Helena Carmena Young, Senior Manager of Teacher Education, California Academy of Sciences
Thursday, August 2
8:30-9:00 am Coffee and munchies
9:00-9:30 Morning warm up and logistics for the day
9:30-10:45 A conversation with Zachary Blount, Postdoc, Michigan State University
Making the new from the old: The evolution of a novel trait in an experimental population of E. coli
Evolutionary novelties are qualitatively new traits that open up ecological opportunities, promote diversification, and increase ecological complexity. Novel traits have played a crucial role in the evolution of life, but how does novelty evolve? Where do new traits come from? How does evolution innovate? Such questions have been struggled with since Darwin's time. The past few decades have led to great advances in understanding how new traits arise from modification of pre-existing genetic material, supporting a suggestion first made by Darwin himself. Evolution experiments with fast-growing microorganisms have proven to be especially valuable in this area, as they can be used to examine the origin of novel traits in fine detail. In this talk, I will describe work I have done into the origins of a new metabolic capacity that arose in a population of E. coli that has been evolving in the lab since 1988. This new trait, the ability to grow on citric acid when oxygen is present, allowed the population to exploit a previously inaccessible resource, grow ten-times larger, become more diverse, and may have produced a new species of bacteria. My findings reiterate evolution's clever thriftiness in making the new from the old, and suggest that novel trait evolution involves at least three steps.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with David Lindberg, Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley
Exploring the consequences of climate change through the assembly and disassembly of kelp forests
Many ecological studies begin with the premise that modern-day communities represent fully integrated settings that evolved synchronously. This approach circumvents consideration of the temporal and spatial histories of the constituent organisms, their probable historical interactions, and how a system may have changed through time. A study of 20 kelp forests finds age and assembly differences between the northern and southern hemispheres. In the northern hemisphere, predators are oldest in warm temperate waters and herbivores are the youngest lineages originating after the kelp at all latitudes. The sea otter is the youngest component in North Pacific kelp forests. In the southern hemisphere, most herbivores and predators are substantially older than the kelp; the herbivores are the oldest lineages and have low latitude ancestry. Kelp forests in the North Atlantic show patterns similar to the North Pacific; probably due to recent migrations. This study shows that not all kelp forests have the same evolutionary trajectories and that region-specific models will be necessary to accurately estimate and predict impacts associated with climate change.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Using Avida Ed in the classroom
Friday, August 3
8:30-9:00 am Coffee and munchies
9:00-9:30 Morning warm up and logistics for the day
9:30-10:45 A conversation with Scott Sampson, Paleontologist and Science Communicator, AKA Dr. Scott
The Immense Story: Connecting cosmos and local place through evolution
Over the past few decades, an astonishing and staggeringly beautiful account of our deep time evolutionary history has recently emerged within science. Evolution, it turns out, is much more than Darwin and natural selection, encompassing no less than the history of the cosmos, life, and culture. Variously called the Epic of Evolution, the Universe Story, Big History, or the Immense Story, this grand narrative has potential to serve as the "big idea" for communicating science, particularly if grounded in the particularities of place.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A second conversation with Scott Sampson
Part II. The 3 Es of nature connection
Connecting children and adolescents with the natural world is one of the great challenges of this century. Based on a variety of research, it appears that nature connection is best grounded in a trio of key ingredients: experience, ecology, and evolution — the "3 Es." That is, a meaningful bond with nature requires abundant, multisensory experience outdoors together with a deep understanding of how one's place works (ecology) and how it came to be (evolution). This presentation will demonstrate how the 3 Es can be united to form a robust scaffold for learning, in and out of the classroom.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-2:00 Sharing activities from the classroom
2:00 Closure and certificates

About the speakers

Zachary D. Blount is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University, where he received his Ph.D. in 2011. He also holds a B.S. in Applied Biology from the Georgia Institute of Technology and an M.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Cincinnati. Zachary's work focuses on studying the origin, evolution, and consequences of a novel metabolic capacity that arose in a population of E. coli that has been evolving in the lab for more than 50,000 generations. His research addresses a number of fundamental issues in evolution, including the role of historical contingency in evolution, the origin of novel traits, speciation, and the origins of diversity and ecological complexity. His work was described in Richard Dawkin's book, The Greatest Show on Earth, and has been profiled in Nature, BBC Knowledge, Science News, and on science journalist Carl Zimmer's blog, The Loom.

Sarah L. Eddy recently earned her Ph.D. in Zoology from Oregon State University studying courtship communication and mate choice in a species of lungless salamanders. During graduate school, she won the 2009 Herbert F. Frolander Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant and the 2012 Patricia K. Cross Future Leaders award from the American Association of Colleges and Universities. She designed and taught graduate level seminars on science pedagogy that resulted in the development of discovery-based laboratories currently used in the Introductory Biology series at OSU. Sarah is now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Washington in Biology Education Research focusing on increasing the accessibility of and student achievement in college-level introductory biology courses.

Nan Ho has been a Biology faculty member at Las Positas College since 1994. She created a joint Science and Engineering Seminar Series between the College and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; its theme of "How Science Gets Done" highlights scientists and engineers who work together to solve challenging problems. She serves on the Teacher Advisory Board that provides expertise and content review for the expansion of the Understanding Evolution website for undergraduate education. She did her undergraduate and graduate work at rival universities in the Bay Area, both Stanford and Berkeley. She has been a Docent at the Oakland Zoo since 2005.

Mark Laidre has been obsessed with evolution ever since he first learned about it the summer after finishing high school. Mark received an undergraduate degree from the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell, a Masters from the Department of Zoology at Cambridge, and a Ph.D. from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary biology at Princeton. Currently, he is a Miller Fellow in the Department of Integrative Biology at Berkeley. Mark is broadly interested in the intersection of evolution, behavior, and ecology. His research combines field and laboratory experiments with theoretical modeling to understand the evolutionary and ecological forces that shape animal behavior, especially communication, sociality, and foraging in taxa ranging from invertebrates to humans.

Dave Lindberg is Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California Berkeley. He is the author of over 100 scientific papers and three books on the evolutionary history of marine organisms and their habitats. He has conducted research and field work for over 30 years around much of the Pacific Rim, and has served as Director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and Chair of the Department of Integrative Biology.

Brent D. Mishler is Director of the University and Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley, as well as Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, where he teaches phylogenetic systematics and plant diversity. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1984, then was on the faculty at Duke University before moving to UC Berkeley in 1993. He is a former President of the American Bryological and Lichenological Society and active on the national scene in efforts to digitize museum data and to develop methods for research use of these data in conjunction with phylogenies. His research interests are in the systematics, evolution, and ecology of bryophytes, especially the diverse moss genus Tortula, as well as in the phylogeny of green plants and the theory of systematics.

Barbara Natterson-Horowitz is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA where she has served as a faculty member since 1994. In 2010, she founded the annual "Zoobiquity Conference: A Species Spanning Approach to Medicine," a discussion among doctors treating the same diseases in their patients of different species. In February 2012, she co-directed Evolutionary Medicine Month at UCLA — "Darwin on Rounds" Project — an initiative which brought prominent evolutionary biologists from around the country and from UCLA into medical settings to expose them to not only the culture of human medicine but the kinds of questions for which an evolutionary approach would be applicable. Knopf has recently published Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing, her book about the fusion of veterinary, evolutionary and human medicine.

Kevin Padian has been a professor of evolutionary biology and paleontology at Berkeley since 1980. He is interested in how big changes get started in evolution, and in the history of thought about biology and evolution. A lot of his focus is on the age of dinosaurs and how dinosaurs evolved into birds. He recently retired as the long-time President of the National Center for Science Education, the pre-eminent organization that explains the creationism vs. science issue to the public. In 2005 he was an expert witness in the Dover, Pennsylvania, "Intelligent Design" trial.

Gail Patricelli is an Associate professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, Davis. Her research focuses on the evolution of animal communication and sexual selection in birds. Her approach involves the development and use of new technologies, such as robotic animals and microphone arrays, to study complex animal behaviors in wild populations. Her research also addresses the impacts of noise from human activities on animal populations; she has worked with many state and federal agencies to formulate more effective regulations to protect threatened species from these impacts. She received the Outstanding New Investigator Award from the Animal Behavior Society in 2010 and the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Mentorship of Undergraduate Research in 2012. Dr. Patricelli's research has been featured on television and radio outlets, such as PBS Nature, CNN, BBC Radio, National Geographic, The Discovery Channel and NPR, and in print outlets from Audubon Magazine to Popular Mechanics.

Scott D. Sampson is a paleontologist and science communicator. He serves as research curator at the Natural History Museum of Utah and as a member of the board of trustees of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. His research focuses on the ecology and evolution of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs, and he has conducted fieldwork in Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Madagascar, Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Sampson was the on-air host and science advisor of the Discovery Channel series Dinosaur Planet, and presently serves the same pair of roles for the hit PBS KIDS series Dinosaur Train. He recently completed a general audience book — Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life, and is now working on another book about connecting kids with nature. He writes a blog, The Whirlpool of Life, and regularly speaks to audiences of all ages on topics ranging from evolution to education.

Helena Carmena Young is currently the Assistant Director of Teacher Professional Development at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. She was a former Science Specialist for several years who taught elementary and middle school science. At the Academy, Helena oversees teacher professional development and focuses on curriculum development and teacher workshop content, process, and pedagogy for grades Pre-K-12. In addition, she has worked closely with the San Francisco Unified School District to provide rich science professional development for Pre-K-12 grade teachers for several long-term educational programs.

Marlene Zuk is a professor of Ecology and Evolution Behavior at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She studies animal behavior and the evolution of sexual behavior, mainly in insects. Her research has taken her to many parts of the world, including Hawaii, the Cook Islands, and Australia. In addition to many technical articles and book chapters, she has written many popular articles for magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Natural History, and is the author of three books for a general audience, most recently Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World.

For more information, contact Louise S. Mead or Judy Scotchmoor.

University of California Museum of Paleontology National Center for Science Education Beacon Center for the Study of Evolution in Action Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Oakland Zoo