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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 VI: 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 sixth 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 28–August 1, 2014
UC Museum of Paleontology, 2063 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.

Please save the date and register early as the course fills up quickly!

Institute schedule

Monday, July 28
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 Charles Marshall, UC Museum of Paleontology (UCMP)
Hindcasting: Mobilizing museum and field data to test predictive models of global change and evolution
We are entering a phase of unprecedented global change, wrought by our off-the-charts population size and abilities to manipulate the environment. Forecasting the impact of global change is important to speciation and our future quality of life. But how are we to test the efficacy of the forecasts? During this presentation I will summarize the efforts of the Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology (BiGCB) to digitally mobilize museum and other natural history field data to understand the impact of past environmental change so that we can better forecast future change. A key component is running forecasting models backwards in time, so that we can test their predictions against the historical records of biodiversity.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Eileen Lacey, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ)
From Field to Classroom: Harnessing the power of natural history collections for instruction in evolutionary biology
The presentation will introduce a mix of formats to highlight the largely untapped power of natural history collections to provide active, inquiry-driven educational experiences in evolutionary biology. Using information from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology's (MVZ) Grinnell Resurvey Project (GRSP) and elevational distribution data of the small mammals (e.g., chipmunks) of the Yosemite region, a series of web-based educational activities currently in development based on both the GRSP and associated specimen-based data will be introduced. The latter portion of the session will be dedicated to discussion of these activities and, more generally, the potential for natural history collections data to contribute to education in evolutionary biology.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Fun with fossils exercises
Tuesday, July 29
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 Danielle Whitaker, Michigan State University
Making Scents: How birds use odors to communicate
Communication in all modalities plays a key role in mate choice and, consequently, sexual selection and speciation. Contrary to long-held beliefs, birds – like mammals – produce and detect odors that contain information about an individual's identity, reproductive readiness, and quality. These odor compounds are found in preen oil, secreted from the avian uropygial gland and spread on the feathers for protection and maintenance. Most recently, we have found evidence that the uropygial gland that harbors symbiotic bacteria, which may actually produce the odors used by the birds. I will discuss my work on chemical communication in the dark-eyed junco, a North American sparrow, and its implications for understanding avian mate choice, speciation, and evolution.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Rosemary Gillespie, Essig Museum of Entomology
Explosions of species on isolated islands
Remote islands are heralded as "natural laboratories" in which thousands of species have evolved as a result of adaptive radiation. Gillespie has been examining how species get to these remote islands, and what causes them to then diversify explosively into multiple species that are vastly different from their mainland counterparts. The talk will focus on: (1) Patterns of diversification and species accumulation within an adaptive radiation. (2) Genetic modification during colonization of new land masses. Gillespie will highlight the interplay between selection and the dynamic environment in the evolution of species within a given island, and the nature and timing of species accumulation.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Resources on songbirds and junco evolution
Wednesday, 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 Kevin Padian, UCMP
What are evograms?
Evograms are phylogenetic diagrams on which features of evolutionary interest are mapped. These include characteristics related to locomotion, feeding, physiology, and ecology that change in various ways through the evolution of a group. During this session we'll discuss how these diagrams are constructed and why they are so effective in teaching evolution.
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Santiago Ramirez, University of California, Davis
Coevolution in a Bee-Orchid Mutualism
More than 80% of the ~300,000 species of angiosperms on Earth exhibit adaptations for pollination by insects yet our understanding of how plant-pollinator mutualisms diversified, coevolved, and assembled into ecological networks remains surprisingly limited. During the presentation I will highlight the ecological and genomic bases of adaptation in a highly specialized mutualism between euglossine bees and the orchid hosts that they pollinate. Euglossine bees are the most important insect pollinators in tropical America, where they provide pollination services to thousands of plant species. Approximately 700 orchid species have evolved production of unique floral scents to channel pollination services exclusively by male euglossine bees. To reconstruct the evolutionary history of this fascinating mutualism I integrate a variety of techniques including phylogenetics, molecular clocks, chemical ecology, network theory, and functional genomics.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Exercises in the evolution of what we wear
Thursday, 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 Ann Reid, National Center for Science Education
Evolution in daily life
One of biology's top ten quotes would have to be Dobzhanksy's "nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution." If that's true, then evolutionary thinking should be able to shed light on questions that come up in everyday life. During this session, we'll tackle two topics that show up with some regularity in the news — avian influenza and antibiotic resistance — and discuss how thinking about them in evolutionary terms is not only useful for teaching, because it provides concrete illustrations of evolutionary principles, but also helps answer practical questions like: "how concerned should I be about bird flu?" and "what are the costs and benefits of taking antibiotics?"
10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Samantha Price, University of California, Davis
Natural history in the 21st century: Using data mining and computational approaches to understand vertebrate radiations
Early evolutionary biologists such as Darwin, Wallace and Cope were natural historians, they spent their time observing nature and investigating the fossil record. In doing so they identified large-scale biodiversity patterns, which they used to infer evolutionary processes. In the 21st century we can use modern computational approaches to collect and analyze vast amounts of data to provide quantitative tests of these patterns to understand how and why organisms diversify and ultimately go extinct. I will illustrate how I utilize the wealth of natural history information in the scientific literature and museum collections to investigate how the habitat preferences of fishes and the diet of mammals influences their probability of going extinct or diversifying, either in terms of generating new species or new morphologies. Understanding past processes can help us to predict how biodiversity may change in the future.
12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Exploring applications of AmphibiaWeb in teaching with Ann Chang
Friday, August 1
8:30-9:00 am Coffee and munchies
9:00-9:30 Morning check-in and logistics for the day
9:30-11:30 HHMI resource sharing
11:30-1:00 Lunch and carpool to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park
1:00-3:00 Tour the new Skulls! exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences

About the Speakers

Ann T. Chang is the Education Coordinator for AmphibiaWeb.org. She obtained her ecology doctorate at UC Davis where she was also active at Davis' Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning via the Teaching Assistant Consulting program. She now spends her time thinking of how amphibians can be used to teach broader life science lessons.

Rosemary G. Gillespie is a Professor in Environmental Science and Curator in the Essig Museum of Entomology. She did her undergraduate degree in Zoology at Edinburgh, Scotland — her country of origin. She came to the U.S. to do her Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee, after which she spent 13 years at the University of Hawaii before coming to Berkeley. Her research uses islands to assess the combined temporal and spatial dimension of biogeography and determine patterns of species proliferation.

Eileen Lacy is Curator of Mammals in UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology a field biologist studying the social behavior of mammals. The current focus of her work is the evolution of sociality (group living) in tuco-tucos, a lineage of subterranean rodents that is endemic to sub-Amazonian South America. As a member of a major research museum, she is deeply committed to promoting the use of natural history collections for research and education. In this context, she has been participating in the MVZ's Grinnell Resurvey Project, which uses comparisons of historical and modern museum specimens to understand patterns of response to a century of environmental change in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

Charles Marshall is Director of the UC Museum of Paleontology and Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley. A researcher with broad interests, he integrates both paleontological and molecular phylogenetic data to look at speciation and extinction rates at different times in the past. A confessed math-lover, Charles also develops quantitative methods to compensate for the incompleteness of the fossil record and his work examines the rapidity and timing of mass extinctions. His current research examines the synergy of tectonic processes, climate change, and changes in diversity on geologic timescales. Charles earned his undergraduate degree at the Australian National University and his Masters and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.

Kevin Padian is Professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley and Curator at the UC Museum of Paleontology. His areas of interest are in vertebrate evolution, especially the especially the origins of flight and the evolution of birds from theropod dinosaurs. Kevin received a Bachelor's degree in Natural Science and Master's degree in Teaching from Colgate University and a Ph.D. from Yale University, where he focused on the evolution of flight in pterosaurs.

Samantha Price is a postdoctoral researcher in Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis. She received her B.A., Oxford University, UK, her Ph.D., University of Virginia and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Her research seeks to understand the fundamental processes driving large-scale macroevolutionary and macroecological patterns by utilising phylogenetic comparative methods. Prior research focused on mammalian evolution, in particular cetacean size and life history evolution, and she also dabbles in phylogenetics, in particular methods for combining previously published trees into new phylogenies (supertrees).

Santiago Ramirez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at UC Davis. His broad interests include studying the adaptations, speciation processes, and ecological determinants that influence insect-plant associations. His work combines multiple approaches including ecological genomics, molecular phylogenetics, population genetics, chemical ecology, and good old-fashioned natural history. Santiago received his B.Sc. in Biology at the Universidad de los Andes (Colombia), earned a Ph.D. at Harvard University, and conducted postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley.

Ann Reid is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education. NCSE works with teachers, scientists and local citizens to defend and support the teaching of evolution and climate change in public schools. As a research biologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology for fifteen years, she was responsible for sequencing the 1918 influenza virus. She then served as a Senior Program Officer at the National Research Council's Board on Life Sciences for five years and then, most recently, as director of the American Academy of Microbiology. In both roles she oversaw major efforts aimed at communicating science to the public.

Danielle J. Whittaker is the Managing Director of the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, an NSF Science and Technology Center headquartered at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on chemical communication in songbirds, especially in the context of mate choice. She is also interested in speciation, genetic diversity, and physiological mechanisms of behavior. In her spare time, she is a roller derby referee.

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