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Evolutionary theory overarches and underlies the modern, scientific understanding of all biology—from ancient fossils, to microscopic bacteria, to human disease, to rain forest ecology. Perhaps no other ideas have so profoundly impacted our views of the living world as the core evolutionary concepts of common ancestry and natural selection.
Evolution not only allows us to understand and appreciate the history and fantastic biodiversity of life, it helps solve biological problems that impact our lives. Thanks to evolutionary theory, we can build better vaccines, improve our control of crop pests, make informed decisions regarding conservation, and much more! Computer scientists have used evolutionary algorithms to solve computational problems. Engineers have used principles of evolution to develop more efficient robots. Law enforcement agencies depend on DNA analyses that wouldn’t be possible without knowledge of evolutionary theory. When you look for it, evolution is everywhere!
Below are the stories on the Science@Cal site that are related to evolution.
The next Science@Cal Lecture will be given at 11 AM on November 17th in Genetics and Plant Biology, Room 100. See the Science@Cal Lectures page for details.
On February 18, our talk was given by Prof. Buford Price, and was entitled "Single-celled Microbes in Polar Ice: A Proxy for Evolution over 100 Million Generations".
Although glacial ice is the purest naturally occurring solid on Earth, it does contain dust particles and micron-size bacterial cells transported by winds from desert soils and oceans. Glacial ice contains a network of liquid veins within which microbes live, metabolize, and die, but do not grow. Using scanning fluorescence spectrometry, fluorescence microscopy, and flow cytometry, we have mapped the distribution and concentration of picocyanobacteria – cells less than 1 micron in size that contain chlorophyll and other naturally fluorescing pigments. They account for half of the photosynthetic biomass in the oceans, half of the primary production, and half of the oxygen in our atmosphere. Theire presence in ice at all depths in both Greenland and Antarctica provides an opportunity to study microbial evolution over about 100 million generations, using recent improvements in sensitivity to analyze the DNA of the cyanobacteria that are trapped in the ice.
Museums all over the world have skeletons, or parts of them, as a catalog of life’s current and past diversity. Have you ever wondered why we study skeletons and how museums get them? Theresa Grieco, a graduate student in Integrative Biology, explains the (surprising) answers in this slideshow. Her slideshow was prepared as a project for a course on “Dissemination of Research,” and there are many more cool slideshows on the course's website!
Benjamin at Wildwood Elementary School sent me on a trip to the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, where over 100 researchers work studying the evolution and ecology of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. I really enjoyed looking at MVZ’s 640,000+ skeletons, skins, eggs, and nests.
I come from Ms. Krogh’s 2–3rd grade class at Havens Elementary School, and I had quite a day with Jann Vendetti, a graduate student in the University of California Museum of Paleontology! I toured the UCMP's teaching collections and experienced what a “Principles of Paleontology” lab is like.
I come from Miss Chace’s 2nd grade class at Havens Elementary School, and I visited the UC Museum of Paleontology to meet Lupe, a young Columbian mammoth that used to live in California 12,000 years ago. Back then, mammoths like Lupe lived through out California with other mammals that are now extinct, like Saber Tooth Tigers. Fossils of Lupe were found in 2005 on the riverbank of the Guadalupe River in San Jose.
I come from Mrs. Adams’ 2nd grade class at Havens Elementary School. Today, I visited the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley to learn about fossils.
Hi! I arrived at Cal from Mrs. Costello’s 5th grade class at Havens Elementary School, and my Science@Cal adventure took me to the Blue Oak Ranch Reserve, run by UC Berkeley. The first day of my visit I did some fieldwork with Michal Shuldman. She is one of the graduate student in the Dawson Lab and she studies the plant Heteromeles arbutifolia (also called toyon). The Dawson Lab studies plants, especially plants that have wood such as redwood trees and oak trees.
Mr. Taylor’s second grade class at Havens Elementary School sent me on my next science adventure at Cal! I visited the greenhouses at the Plant Gene Expression Center with scientists from the McCormick Lab.