Public programs : Short courses

A University of California Museum of Paleontology short course
The implications of evolution: evidence and applications

Mackerel, Coast Live Oak, jellyfish, butterfly, chimpanzee, slime mold, ribbon worm

Learn about current research in evolutionary biology, including behavior and defense, primate evolution, and coevolution and its impact on biodiversity … AND celebrate Darwin Day (Darwin's birthday is February 12) a little early!

Saturday, February 10, 2007
in Room 2050, Valley Life Sciences Building, UC Berkeley


Parking information

8:15 am



Registration opens

Welcome and logistics

The Coevolving Web of Life
John Thompson, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz
Earth's millions of species interact with one another in a remarkable variety of ways, linking predators and prey, parasites and hosts, competitors, and mutualists into complex webs of life. This exuberance of interconnected life is what Darwin called the entangled bank. Scientists now know that the process of coevolution continually reshapes these webs of life. Thompson will discuss how all complex organisms have come to rely upon coevolved relationships to survive and reproduce and how recent research is providing new perspectives on coevolution as one of the central processes organizing life on Earth. From presentation: "Quotes that avoid the use of the word evolution" (PowerPoint file)


Mantis Shrimp: Still the Fastest Claw in the West
Roy Caldwell, Professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley
Over three hundred million years ago, mantis shrimp evolved one of the fastest and most powerful mechanical weapons in the animal kingdom, a greatly enlarged pair of raptorial appendages. While the raptorial appendages evolved for feeding, they also provide formidable offensive and defensive weapons that shape their mode of hunting and the type of domicile and mating systems. This is perhaps best seen in their sensory and learning capabilities. Some groups have what is arguably the most complex eye in the animal kingdom and in conjunction with this have evolved semi-private communication systems based on ultraviolet, fluorescent and polarized signals. Caldwell will give a general introduction to the biology of mantis shrimps, highlighting new research on their strike functions, their amazing visual and communications systems, and the interplay between the weapons they possess and other aspects of their biology. See Professor Caldwell's PowerPoint presentation (11.9 MB).


Fossils, Genes, and Teeth: Reconstructing Primate Evolution
Leslea Hlusko, Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley
Although Darwin was correct about the natural mechanism through which organisms change over time (natural selection), he was at a loss to explain how variation was passed from one generation to the next. Advances in genetics, medicine, computer technology, and paleontology are enabling us to investigate evolution in a way that Charles Darwin only dreamed about. Hlusko will discuss some new approaches combining paleontology and genetics that are enabling scientists to pry open Darwin's black box of inheritance, and gain insight into how animals, including humans, have evolved over time. More on Leslea Hlusko's research.



Break for lunch (on your own)

How to Fall From Trees: New Evolutionary Insights into the Origins of Animal Flight
Robert Dudley, Professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley
What is the use of half a wing? More generally, how do novel structures and behaviors evolve? Recently discovered aerial behaviors in ant workers of the tropical rain forest canopy demonstrate directed falling maneuvers in the complete absence of wings. Such control of falling  is not confined to ants, and can be found in a number of different wingless larval insects.  Most importantly, tree-dwelling bristletails (the wingless relatives of the winged insects) also exhibit directed aerial descent while falling. In evolutionary time, controlled aerial behaviors appear to have preceded the origin of wings in insects and in other flying animals. This observation has important implications for our understanding of the evolution of animal flight.


So Where's the Controversy?
Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education
Scott will discuss current antievolution strategies, the intelligent design movement, and recent legal decisions concerning the teaching of evolution. There will be ample time for discussion.


Closing comments

About the speakers

Roy Caldwell is a Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology. For more than 40 years, he has prowled coral reefs from Bermuda and Panama to Australia and Indonesia. While most of his research has been on the behavior and ecology of stomatopods (mantis shrimp) and octopus, he and his students also have worked on coral reef conservation and restoration and even participated in the discovery of a new species of living coelacanth from Indonesia.

Robert Dudley is a Professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley. His work on the biomechanics and evolution of animal flight involves both laboratory and fieldwork, the latter most recently including sites in southwest China and Amazonian Peru. Most of this work involves the study of hummingbirds and flying insects, although gliding lizards from Southeast Asia and flying squirrels have also been the subjects of recent study.

Leslea Hlusko is an Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley. Her research combines paleontology and genetics to study the evolution of the mammalian skeleton, with a focus on primates. The genetics research is primarily done in collaboration with the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in Texas. She has conducted paleontological field research in Kenya and Ethiopia and is currently the co-director of a project in Tanzania.

Eugenie Scott holds a Ph.D. in physical anthropology from the University of Missouri. A human biologist, her research has been in medical anthropology and skeletal biology. For several years, she has served as Executive Director of NCSE, a pro-evolution nonprofit science education organization with members in every state.

John Thompson is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Director of the STEPS Institute for Innovation in Environmental Research at UC Santa Cruz. His research uses approaches from ecology, biogeography, and molecular biology to study how coevolution organizes the Earth's biodiversity. His studies have included organisms as different as insects, birds, plants, fungi, bacteria, and phages. He has studied coevolved interactions on multiple continents and in environments ranging from true wildernesses to laboratory microcosms.

UCMP is a member of the Berkeley Natural History Museums. This course is co-sponsored by the California Science Teachers Association, California Academy of Sciences, the Oakland Museum of California, and the National Center for Science Education.

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