Acclaimed Evolution Expert, Family Activities Highlight Darwin Day
Allentown, Pa. (Feb. 18, 2011)—Nancy Moran, Ph.D., the William H. Fleming Professor of Biology at Yale University and an internationally recognized expert on evolution, will deliver the annual Darwin Day lecture at Cedar Crest College on Saturday, Feb. 26, at 4 p.m. in Alumnae Hall auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
Cedar Crest College Professor of Biological Sciences, Richard Kliman, said Moran is one of the most knowledgeable and respected evolutionary biologists in the world, and an ideal candidate to deliver the 2011 Darwin Day lecture.
“Nancy Moran is a leading figure in the interface of ecology and evolution,” said Kliman. “Her research on how different organisms become mutually dependent on each other and evolve together has profound implications on our overall study of the evolution of life.”
Moran is perhaps best known for her research on the symbiotic relationships that exist between organisms, for which she earned the highly coveted 2010 International Prize for Biology. There are many examples of symbiotic relationships in everyday life: for instance, flowering plants and birds, butterflies, and other pollinating animals; and the presence of microorganisms in the human gut, which aid in vitamin synthesis and help protect us against harmful bacteria. Research on the evolution of symbiotic relationships is, therefore, critical for our understanding of ecological relationships among organisms, including those that involve humans.
Among other things, Moran’s research shows that aphids (small plant-eating insects) and resident bacteria have become so mutually beneficial for each other that each has stopped producing genes for certain tasks the other organism is able to complete more efficiently.
Moran will discuss the implications this gene sharing could have on the current and future health and survival of the host species and the bacteria, as well as the evolutionary history behind the insect/bacteria relationship and the process by which this symbiosis occurs. She will also relate her research to evolution in the broader context.
Moran is a member of the National Academy of Science. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, and while on the faculty at the University of Arizona (1986-2009), she was awarded a MacArthur “genius” fellowship. She served as president of the Society for the Study of Evolution in 2002, and she has over 150 scientific publications, many of which have appeared in the most prestigious journals.
For information on the Darwin Day lecture at Cedar Crest College call 610-740-3791.
Family Darwin Day in the Lehigh Valley will be held earlier in the day at the Da Vinci Science Center, where various activities that are included in the regular price of admission are set from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Among these, faculty from area colleges and universities will give short presentations on various aspects of evolution. These 10-minute talks for all visitors will cover a variety of topics.
The participating faculty, along with Da Vinci Science Center staff, will be available to accompany visitors to related exhibits, demonstrations and hands-on activities. For information on activities at Da Vinci Science Center call 484-664-1002.