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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 VIII: 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 eighth 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 25–29, 2016
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.

Tentative Agenda has been added. Speaker bios coming soon!

We still have space! Register today!


Institute schedule

Monday, July 25
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 Ashley Poust

Morphology, Histology, Ichnology: New Insights into the lives of Dinosaurs

New discoveries and techniques have overthrown old concepts of the mighty dinosaurs and their ancient ecosystems. This compelling group is an exciting microcosm of how macroevolutionary forces shape major clades of animals. During this talk Ash will explore how recent research has revealed intimate details of dinosaur lives and let us discover things about them we thought were forever lost to the depths of time. Understanding how we know what we know about dinosaurs shows the power of the fossil record to illuminate the past.

10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Christopher Emerling

Pseudogenes as a simple yet powerful tool to understand life's evolutionary history

Regression evolution, or vestigialization, involves the reduction or complete loss of a formerly useful trait in a lineage of organisms. This is driven by evolutionary changes to the DNA underlying these traits, frequently via the accumulation of mutations that disrupt the function of a formerly useful locus. When these inactivating mutations occur in the protein-coding portion of a gene, it results in a nonfunctional pseudogene. In the absence of fossil data, pseudogenes can inform the timing of macroevolutionary events, such as changes in sensory systems, diet and the loss of anatomical structures. In addition, many pseudogenes occurring naturally in animals are at loci associated with human disease, suggesting these species can be utilized to uncover new gene-disease associations.

12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientist (Please bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Resource sharing
Tuesday, July 26
8:30-9:00 Coffee and munchies
9:00 -9:30 Morning warm-up and logistics for the day
9:30-11:00 HHMI Biointeractive resources on mass extinctions by HHMI teacher ambassador Nikki Chambers
11:00-11:15 Break
11:15-12:45 HHMI Biointeractive resources on shell morphology by HHMI teacher ambassador Samantha Johnson
12:45-1:30 Lunch on your own
1:30-3:00 Invertebrate collections and virtual exercises at the UCMP (tour and resource preview with Lisa White)
Wednesday, July 27
8:30-9:00 Coffee and munchies
9:00 -9:30 Morning warm-up and logistics for the day
9:30-10:45 A conversation with Jeff Benca

Testing a proposed driver of the end-Permian forest collapse and the Earth's largest mass extinction

The cause of Earth's largest mass extinction (~252 million years ago) remains hotly disputed. Over the past few decades, a wide range of kill mechanisms have been proposed to explain disappearance of major animal lineages. However, the fossil record of terrestrial ecosystems during this interval is notoriously fragmentary and challenging to interpret. Among the only direct stress imprints from crisis deposits are fossilized malformed pollen grains. These grains were produced by forest trees as woodland ecosystems vanished across the planet. By studying pollen development in living plants under a hypothesized stress, my research hopes to better interpret the nature of the end-Permian forest collapse. In this talk, findings of the first attempt to experimentally test a proposed mass extinction driver will be presented along with evolutionary implications.

10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with Chodon Sass

Overcoming limits to sampling through high throughput sequencing technology - examples from recent and ancient diversifications in the Banana/Ginger plant order

To understand diversity and diversification, scientists have been classifying organisms into similar groups for thousands of years. However, looks can be deceiving or confusing when trying to find the closest relative of an organism. With DNA, evolutionary biologists can corroborate or refute relationships inferred from morphology and generate new insights about the tree of life while enabling us to test hypotheses about the evolution of form and function. Now, with advanced DNA sequencing technologies, DNA from previously unavailable specimens (e.g. those preserved in herbaria) can be used to generate phylogenetic trees with unprecedented genomic sampling. I will discuss new methods I have developed and employed for overcoming difficult challenges in understanding the evolutionary relationships of several groups with a history of either ancient or recent rapid diversification.

12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (Please bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Resource sharing
Thursday, July 28
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 Caroline Williams

Winter drives responses of terrestrial organisms to climate change.

Although the best known consequence of climate change may be increased heat waves in the summer, winter conditions are also changing markedly, and in some cases these changes can have even larger impacts than changes experienced in summer. During the presentation, I'll talk about the consequences of winter climate change for terrestrial organisms, in particular insects, and present some new research showing how winter conditions can impact ecology and evolution. This work is important because winter climate change is altering energy balance, phenology, and cold stress in overwintering organisms leading to cascading biological impacts that carry over into the growing season affecting survival and fitness.

10:45-11:00 Break
11:00-12:15 A conversation with James Morris

Strategies for teaching evolution in ways that stick

Sparking curiosity in students is an important element of successful learning. We all want students to reach an "Aha!" moment, but this only works if there is a "Huh?" moment that comes first. Out of this confusion, curiosity arises. I applied this approach to my own teaching by starting a class in evolution not with what we are covering, but instead by asking questions. No answers, just questions. This helped to engage students from the start, highlighted gaps in their knowledge, and encouraged them to ask their own questions. In this talk, I will share teaching approaches that draw from key aspects of "sticking teaching."

12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (Please bring your own lunch)
1:00-2:00 Resource sharing with James Morris
2:00-3:00 A conversation with Joel Abraham

Supporting student success in evolutionary biology: research on student conceptions, instruction, and assessment

Much of my research focuses on student conceptions in biology, particularly in ecology and evolution. Using a variety of approaches, I work to characterize student conceptions, design assessment instruments to help instructors diagnose confusions and assess instructional approaches, and assess the effectiveness of computer-based instruction in evolution. My research has included a range of topics, such as natural selection, genetic drift, dominance, and acceptance of evolutionary theory which I will present in my talk.

Friday, July 29
8:30-9:00 am Coffee and munchies
9:00-9:30 Morning check-in and logistics for the day
9:30-10:45 A conversation with Noel Heim

Considering the "Full House" of variation: testing Gould's hypotheses of directionality in evolution

Much speculation exists among evolutionary biologists on whether or not evolution follows predictable, directional trends. Stephen Jay Gould famously argued that directionality was not common in evolution and that trends in the fossil record are more apparent than real. As an alternative, he proposed that models of neutral drift have far more explanatory power than models with active selection. I will present two case studies testing for directionality in the evolution of organism size (biovolume) and biological complexity in fossil and extant organisms.

10:45-11:00 Break

A conversation with Julia Sigwart, Queen’s University

Specializations and adaptations of molluscs in extreme environments

Deep sea hydrothermal vents are places of high biodiversity in both the present and in deep time. Specialized adaptations in molluscs and other vent organisms exploit extreme environments and show a remarkable ability to adapt to environmental change. Using an integrative approach that incorporates morphological, molecular, and phylogenetic methods, I will highlight how the diversity and diversification of mollusc species in present-day deep sea environments and in the fossil record, guide our understanding of ecological interactions in these unique settings.

12:15-1:00 Lunch with the scientists (Please bring your own lunch)
1:00-3:00 Resource sharing

About the Speakers

Ashley Poust is a PhD candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology and Museum of Paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a vertebrate paleontologist interested in the intersection of life history and evolution: how the lives of organisms set up the forces of selection that drive the evolution of their lineages. In his thesis he is using bone histology to improve our understanding of early placental mammal evolution. Other recent work has investigated reproduction of Chinese dinosaurs, relationships of small feathered theropods, and the ancient life of California.

Christopher A. Emerling is a postdoctoral fellow funded by the National Science Foundation, working in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California at Berkeley. His research includes the genomic evolution of photosensory systems and diet in vertebrates, with special focus on armadillos, sloths and anteaters. He received his B.S. in Zoology from UC Santa Barbara and his PhD in Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology from UC Riverside.

Jeff Benca is a PhD candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology and UC Museum of Paleontology. He studies a group of early land plants, the lycopods, that have survived several mass extinctions. Using fossil and living representatives, he hopes to understand how they and other plants may have responded to environmental changes in the past. His dissertation focuses on integrating fossil and experimental studies to better interpret vegetation turnover during the end-Permian mass extinction.

Chodon Sass is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and the UC and Jepson Herbaria at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her doctoral degree from UC Berkeley in Plant and Microbial Biology and completed post-doctoral research in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology before re-joining the plant and microbial biology teams to work on understanding the evolution of the tropical plant order Zingiberales which includes banana, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, and many others.

Caroline Williams is an evolutionary physiologist who studies the responses of insects to climate change, particularly in the winter. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley, and is originally from New Zealand. She received her B.S. degree in Zoology from the University of Otago in New Zealand and her PhD in Biology from the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

James Morris is Professor of Biology at Brandeis University, where he teaches introductory biology, evolution, genetics, anatomy, and a seminar on Darwin's On the Origin of Species. His research focuses on epigenetics. He is a lead author of a college-level introductory textbook titled Biology: How Life Works and active blogger on the Science Whys site.

Joel K. Abraham is an Associate Professor of Biology at California State University, Fullerton, with expertise in biology education, plant ecology, and urban agricultural practices. His primary research involves assessment and instruction in ecology, evolution, and science literacy. He has also dedicated much of his time in support of increasing diversity and participation in STEM. He received his BSC in Biology from Howard University, PhD in Integrative Biology from UC Berkeley, and completed his postdoctoral training at MIT and SimBio, Inc.

Noel Heim is a Research Associate in the Department of Geological Sciences at Stanford University. During his undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago, he discovered the richness of the marine fossil record for studying ecology in evolution. After college, Noel went to UC Riverside to earn a Master's degree, which took him to the India Himalaya to study Cambrian Trilobites. He then went to the University of Georgia to study the effects of climate change on Carboniferous brachiopod communities from the Ozark Mountains. Noel's current research focuses on compiling large geological and paleontological datasets to answer big questions in evolution

Julia Sigwart is an evolutionary biologist who studies the evolution and diversification of mollusks and other marine invertebrates. She is the Associate Director of Queen's University Marine Laboratory, an interdisciplinary research institute in Portaferry, Northern Ireland. She is presently based in the University of California, Berkeley, on a sabbatical funded by a research excellence award from the European Commission.

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