______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Evolutionary Biology: Clearing up the Misunderstandings

Evolutionary theory is one of the key building blocks of modern biology, and is a well supported and vibrant area of science, and yet evolution is not accepted by most Americans and it remains at the center of an intense debate in our society. Although the current debate over evolution and “intelligent design” (ID) is being driven by a relatively small group of individuals who object to the theory of evolution for religious reasons, the debate is fueled by misunderstandings on the part of the American public about what evolutionary biology is and what it says. These misunderstandings are exploited by proponents of ID, intentionally or not, and are often echoed in the media. In the Webster Lab, we are actively working to clear up these misunderstandings, and also to educate the broader public about the importance and relevance of evolution to their everyday lives. We do this through public presentations and workshops aimed at the general public, as well as through popular press articles in newspapers and magazines. For example, in 2009 members of the lab helped organize a series of well-attended events for “Darwin Week”, and in 2010 Mike was the Keynote speaker for the Darwin Day Celebration at Portland State University, where he delivered a talk aimed directly at the misconceptions about evolution (“What Evolution Isn’t”). Contact Mike if you are organizing a similar evolution or Darwin-related event.

See Publications...



_______________________________________________________________________________________________________


Photo by Garth McElroy

Climate Change and Birds

Like evolution, the issue of climate change has generated considerable controversy and debate in our society. Like most scientists, we have moved beyond any debate over whether climate change is occurring, and instead are focusing on the more relevant question of what effects current on-going climate change will have on birds and other organisms. Using our own research on the black-throated blue warbler as a springboard, and partnering with the Citizen Science group at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we are beginning to develop public presentations and other tools to help educate the broader public about the real implications of climate for birds, the environment, and people.

See Publications...

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Teaching Others

Positioned within the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we are in an excellent position to introduce the broader public to the amazing diversity of animal behavior, to the amazing (and sometimes beautiful or bizarre) ways that animals communicate with each other, and to birds in general. The Macaulay library provides materials specifically for outreach and education projects, and we are developing public presentations that incorporate Macaulay sights and sounds to astonish as well as educate. In addition, we work directly with others at the Lab of Ornithology and Cornell University to bring a better understanding of the natural world to others.

See Publications...