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Think Evolution: A summer institute for science educators

Sponsored by UCMP, in partnership with the National Center for Science Education, the Beacon Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Think Evolution V: 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 fifth 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 29–August 2, 2013
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 field trip to the Cal Academy for a personalized tour of Human Odyssey — a new exhibit on the origin of our species.

Institute schedule

Monday, July 29
8:00-8:30 am Registration
8:30-9:00 Coffee and munchies
9:00-9:30 Introductions and logistics
9:30-10:45 A conversation with Mansi Srivastava, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The evolution of animal complexity: Insights from comparative genomics studies of sea anemones, sponges, and multicellular pancakes
Once the human genome project concluded, the technology developed for sequencing the human genome opened up the possibility of looking into the genomes of many other organisms. Knowing that the genotype controls the phenotype, it was reasonable to expect that animals such as humans that have complex anatomy would have complex genomes relative to simpler animals such as sponges. However, the genomes of our most distantly related animal cousins held many surprises. This talk will highlight the key insights that have emerged from comparative genomic studies of sponges, sea anemones, and an enigmatic animal lineage called the placozoans, and the idea of a "toolkit" of genes that the first animals to emerge over 650 million years ago encoded in their genomes.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Jonathan Eisen, University of California Davis
Phylogenetic and phylogenomic approaches to study the dark matter of the biological universe — the microbes
Microbes (organisms too small to see without the aid of a microscope) play fundamental roles in every ecosystem on the planet. Unfortunately, there have been many challenges with obtaining a full understanding of just what microbes are doing across the planet. Recently, our understanding of the world of microbes, and their roles in the planet, has undergone a revolution with the application of DNA sequencing technologies both to microbes that we can grow in the lab and to samples from the environment. I will discuss this revolution and also how making the most sense out of this data on microbes requires an evolutionary perspective. I will give examples of how phylogenetic and phylogenomic approaches have been applied to understand the evolution, ecology and function of microbes found throughout diverse ecosystems on the planet.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Teaching and learning about the process of science: A new look at the Understanding Science website
Lisa White
Tuesday, July 30
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 Vance Vredenburg, San Francisco State University
Evolution of disease in amphibians
Amphibians, the first land vertebrates, contain over 7,000 known species and are threatened worldwide. The culprit, first identified in 1998 as an emerging infectious disease in amphibians known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is a type of chytridiomycete fungus. This fungal pathogen causes the disease chytridiomycosis in amphibians. The impact of this disease on frogs from the Sierra Nevada range in California to Costa Rica reveal how fungal epidemics can spread over large geographic areas. The potential for Bd growth in amphibians in other areas of the world where the presence of both host species and dispersal capacities are evident will also be highlighted.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Peter T. Oboyski, Essig Museum of Entomology
Insects, islands, and biogeography: Patterns and processes of speciation
Both Darwin and Wallace recognized the importance of islands to understanding evolution. Islands are discrete units of habitat with finite numbers of species that function as tractable theaters for observing evolutionary processes. Begining with MacArthur and Wilson's "Equilibrium Theory of Island Biogeography" (1963, 1967), continuing efforts to quantify and model biological diversity on islands has resulted in a broadening of our definition of islands and the ways we study them. Here we will discuss some of the patterns and processes of speciation and evolution on remote Pacific Islands in Hawaii and French Polynesia, with a focus on isolation and ecological opportunity for insects and spiders. We will then examine a case study of host-plant shifting and speciation in tortricid moths.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 AmphibiaWeb with Ann Chang and exploring applications in teaching
Wednesday, July 31
8:30-9:00 am Coffee and munchies
9:00-9:30 Morning warm-up and logistics for the day
9:30-11:30 Teaching evolution to diverse communities: Discussion and resources
Louise Mead and Lisa White
11:30-12:15 Lunch (bring your own lunch)
12:30-1:45 A conversation with Mark Laidre, University of California Berkeley
The active role of behavior in evolution
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 investigating the active role behavior plays in influencing evolutionary dynamics. Behavior can dramatically alter organisms' environmental niche through a process known as 'niche construction' (in which ecological changes brought about by organisms' behaviors feed back evolutionarily and alter natural selection pressures). Behavior can also create several forms of non-genetic inheritance (including ecological inheritance, cultural inheritance, and linguistic inheritance), all of which interact with genes to complicate the evolutionary process. This talk will highlight the dynamic interplay between genetic and non-genetic inheritance and between niche construction and natural selection, detailing case studies of how and why organisms' behavior actively shapes evolutionary processes.
1:45-3:00 A conversation with Erica Bree Rosenblum, University of California Berkeley
Rapid evolution: The tale of the white lizards
Under certain conditions, evolution can occur remarkably quickly. Rapid bouts of evolutionary change can explain some of the phenomenal biological diversity we see on the planet today. The potential for rapid evolution is also important given contemporary dramatic changes to the global environment. I will discuss my own research on the lizards of White Sands as an example of how integrative research tools can reveal the dynamics of rapid evolution. We will look at changes across scales from genes to populations to ecosystems. We will also discuss ways to use this system as a case study in teaching evolutionary biology.
Thursday, 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 C. Sarah Cohen, Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, San Francisco State University
Complex life cycles in seagrass, invertebrates, and herring: Population connectivity and structure in San Francisco Bay food webs
I am interested in how ecological, behavioral, and environmental features shape evolution and genetic systems in diverse organisms. A large part of my research in estuarine settings focuses on San Francisco Bay and seeks answers to questions about how life history, physiology, and behavioral attributes of species affect population structure and food webs. San Francisco Bay is a highly modified estuary and investigations of plant and animal populations in SF Bay help to detect anthropogenic effects on natural populations. These investigations raise further questions about coastal and marine conservation, and remediation. During my talk, the ecology, evolution, and life cycles of a variety of organisms — from seagrass to colonial invertebrates — will be highlighted in both natural and modified systems in SF Bay.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Todd Dawson, University of California Berkeley
Exploring the linkages between ecology, climate and climate change for California's Coast Redwood
Redwoods have inhabited Earth for well over 100 million years and have experienced a great deal of climatic change during their long history. Coast redwood in particular was once much more widespread, but as global climate changed, its ecological range contracted to a narrow band along the California coast defined by cool temperatures, ample winter rainfall and summers with fog. In the past 100+ years these prevailing climatic conditions have been rapidly changing. Moreover, the changes now being experienced by coast redwoods are much more than just climatic changes. Expanding urbanization, land-use change and the introduction of novel pests, pathogens and competitors all factor into challenging redwoods in ways they have never seen in their long evolutionary history. I will highlight aspects of redwood biology and ecology in the context of our climate change research that has and is providing insights into how coast redwoods have responded to past climate change and how these compare to their responses to the climate of the Anthropocene. This information is used to then model what we think the future holds for redwoods in our rapidly changing world.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 HHMI Resources
Jennifer Bricken and Dennis Liu
Friday, August 2
A day at the California Academy of Sciences
9:00-9:30 Morning check-in and logistics for the day
9:30-10:45 A conversation with Peter Roopnarine, California Academy of Sciences
Mass extinctions, species evolution and community selection
Mass extinctions represent the major disruption or destruction of communities and ecosystems. Ecosystem recovery depends upon both the evolution of new species, as well as the assembly of stable and robust communities. Are these two processes complementary, or can they proceed independently or even in opposition to each other?
11:00-3:00 Docent-led tour of human evolution exhibit. Lunch on your own and time to explore the exhibits.

About the speakers

C. Sarah Cohen is an Associate Professor of Biology at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, the SF State University marine lab on SF Bay. She and her students conduct wet lab, field, and genetic experiments to understand how evolutionary forces shape the adaption of local populations under varying conditions or, alternatively, how evolutionary change may be constrained. Sea stars, copepods, seagrasses, fish, and mice are among the organisms used in her lab to study the interaction of organism and environment in evolutionary processes. In 2009, she initiated university mentoring into the CSU summer teacher researcher program (CeSAME STAR). Teachers and middle and secondary students participate in her projects in California and Alaska including basic research and citizen's science monitoring.

Todd Dawson is professor of plant ecology and physiology in the Departments of Integrative Biology and Environmental Science, Policy & Management at UC Berkeley. He has been studying plant-climate interactions and their impacts on plant physiology and ecology for over 25 years and redwoods since he was an undergraduate. In recent years he has become actively involved in applying what he and his research group are learning from their research to preservation, conservation and management of California's diverse array of forest types.

Jonathan Eisen is a Professor at the University of California, Davis, with appointments in the Department of Evolution and Ecology, the Department of Medical Microbiology, and the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute. His research focuses on the phylogenomics of novelty in microbes, and major research themes include the genomic basis for the origin and evolution of new functions, the ecology and evolution of microbial communities and the co-evolution of microbes and their carrying vessels. Dr. Eisen is also heavily involved in various "open science" activities relating to the move to make scientific research and educational activities more open and inclusive.

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. He has been a Miller Fellow in the Department of Integrative Biology at Berkeley the past three years and he will be moving to the Department of Biology at Dartmouth College this fall. 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.

Peter Oboyski is senior museum scientist and collections manager of the Essig Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the evolution of insects, particularly Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), on remote Pacific Islands, using insect-plant interactions and island age and structure to untangle the complex histories of speciation and biogeography of focal species. Dr. Oboyski also is engaged in large-scale biodiversity informatics projects that incorporate citizen scientists in the digitization of museum specimens to make natural history data publicly accessible.

Peter Roopnarine was born in the United Kingdom and grew up on the islands of Jamaica and Trinidad, where he developed his love of natural spaces and the developing world. He holds degrees in Biology (B.Sc.), Ocean Sciences (M.S.) and Geology (Ph.D.), and is the Curator of Geology and Paleontology at the California Academy of Science's Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability in San Francisco. His research interests include extinction, the evolutionary ecology of ecosystems, and the dynamics of food webs and complex ecosystems.

Erica Bree Rosenblum is an Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley in the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management. Her research focuses on the evolutionary processes of speciation and extinction, with a particular interest in how organisms respond to changing environments. Her speciation work emphasizes the role of ecology in the speciation process using lizards as a focal system. Her extinction work addresses the contemporary biodiversity crisis, specifically disease-related amphibian declines. She is highly invested in scientific outreach and facilitates a number of activities to improve public understanding of science including Save the Frogs Day for pre-school students and Lizard Camp for middle school students.

Mansi Srivastava is a postdoctoral researcher at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT. In 2009 she received her PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley while completing research on the genomes and embryos of early animal lineages such as sea anemones and sponges to learn about early animal evolution. At MIT she is studying how regenerative mechanisms have evolved in animals. To this end, she is developing a species of acoel worms as a new model for molecular genetic studies of regeneration.

Vance Vredenburg is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at San Francisco State University, a Research Associate and Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, and a Research Associate at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley. He grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and received his bachelor's degree from UC Santa Barbara and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. His Ph.D. research included the first field experiments to reverse the decline of a threatened frog in the wild. His approach has been implemented in montane areas throughout western North America, Europe and South America (Patagonia). His current research focuses on the impacts of an emerging infectious disease (chytridiomycosis) on amphibians and the role of the amphibian skin microbiome in health and disease.

For more information, contact Lisa White or Louise S. Mead.

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