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Darwin Days highlights evolution on a local scale

Media Contact

Joe Schwartz

You can find evidence for evolution in the living things all around you, as Charles Darwin himself believed – and the plants, animals and insects in your backyard are living examples of the wonders of evolution in action.

Through Feb. 14, Ithaca’s annual Darwin Days celebration will explore the theme of “Evolution in Your Backyard” and salute Darwin’s monumental research, ideas and legacy with a variety of activities. Events on and off-campus include a multimedia exhibition at Tompkins County Public Library, family activities, lectures, trivia and a Darwin birthday party. The celebration is organized by the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI).

A panel discussion on the theme, Feb. 9 at 5:30 p.m. in 142 Goldwin Smith Hall, features Cole Gilbert, associate professor and chair of entomology; ecology and evolutionary biology faculty members Jeremy Searle and Willy Bemis; and Brooks Miner, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellow who specializes in aquatic ecology and evolution. The discussion will be facilitated by PRI director Warren D. Allmon, the Hunter R. Rawlings III Professor of Paleontology in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

The public library exhibition features specimens native to Ithaca, along with images and graphics explaining what they can teach us. Portraits, journal entries and specimens tell Darwin’s personal story, and the display also covers the history of PRI’s Darwin Days, first held in 2006.

Other Darwin Days events (free and open to the public, unless noted):

  • Allmon leads an interactive discussion on this year’s theme, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. at a Science Cabaret at Lot 10 Lounge, 106 S. Cayuga St., Ithaca. Appropriate for all ages.
  • Science and Nature Trivia Night, Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m. at Felicia’s Atomic Lounge. For teams of up to six people.
  • Darwin’s Quirky Birthday Bash, Feb. 12, 5:30- 7:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Earth, 1259 Trumansburg Road (Route 96), Ithaca. Admission is $20 general, $10 for museum members. The party includes live music, the temporary exhibit “Quirks of Nature: The Comics of Rosemary Mosco,” wine, snacks and birthday cake. Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, author of “Darwin’s Cathedral” and a Distinguished Professor at Binghamton University, will speak at 6:30 p.m.
  • Nelson Hairston, the Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Environmental Science in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, gives a lecture Feb. 13 at 5:30 p.m. in G64 Goldwin Smith Hall, 
”Rapid Adaptation to Changing Environments: How Plausible is ‘Evolutionary Rescue’ From Extinction?”
  • Darwin Days Family Day, Feb. 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Museum of the Earth
, offers free fossil identification; hands-on activities with insects, plants, dinosaurs and corn until 1 p.m., and from 1-2 p.m., some of PRI’s live animal collection in the museum’s classroom. The Mosco comics display is also open. Regular admission, free for museum members.

Darwin Days is presented with support from Cornell and from Derek and Leora Kaufman.

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