The study of science is brought to life as the University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Biological Science hosts its first ever Darwin Week, Feb. 6 – Feb. 10.
After four years of creating activities dedicated to Charles Darwin, author of “The Origin of Species,” the Biological Science Department developed the idea of organizing a week of events to honor his contributions to science and humanity.
“Darwin Week highlights not only contributions by Darwin to biology, but also the amazing knowledge we gain about ourselves in the study of evolution,” said Darwin Day organizer Donald Yee. “Topics like conservation, biodiversity, medicine and human aging all have their roots in evolution.”
The week is filled with keynote speakers, socials and forums in recognition of Darwin’s studies. “We want to highlight the Department of Biological Sciences contributions to that knowledge and also engage the wider USM community of students,” Yee said.
The keynote speaker of the week, Neil Shubin, author of “Your inner Fish,” kicked off the week on Monday with a screening of his PBS documentary “Your inner Fish.”
Tuesday was jam-packed with events beginning with a Fossil Trip led by the department of Geography and Geology. It was then followed by a cake and ice cream social for students and faculty in the JST Lobby. Later that evening Shubin held a book signing right before delivering his keynote presentation in which more than 500 people attended.
University Forum Director Andrew Haley said these panels are relevant to current events.
“People are beginning to question science more and more, and we wanted to bring scientist here whose work is provocative and talks to current issues,” Haley said.
Shubin lectured about the discovery of “Fishapod,” the 375-milion-year- old fossilized remains, which could be a missing link between fish and land animals. This discovery was a form of scientific evidence that led to evolutionary theory, according to Shubin.
“I believe its important for universities to not only say there is one way of thinking about things,” Haley said. “But to make these ideas available to our students so they can make their own judgments.”
Wednesday events included, displays in JST, highlighting animal diversity and a panel discussion on antibiotic resistance.
“I learned to pay attention to things that I don’t understand now or don’t find interesting and explore [them],” said junior biological science major Betsy Redfern.
She said Shubin’s scientific discoveries motivate her to keep pursuing her dreams.
“If you believe in something then keep pushing for it even if it takes a long time. Dr. Shubin wanted to find the fish fossil and even after several years later, he never gave up.”
Thursday, students can look forward to faculty presentations of three lectures that cover paleontology, primates and insects. These presentations include professors from the Geology and Geography, Anthropology and Sociology and Biological Sciences Department.
Darwin Week celebrations end on Friday with Mississippi State’s Matthew Brown, as he leads a presentation and discussion on his work on evolution and microbes.
All events are free and open to the public. For more information visit, www. usm.edu/biological-sciences/darwin- day