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About the Project

Abstract to NSF Project

Over the past twenty years, evolutionary biology has developed in to a vibrant, investigative science with a potent relevance to societal issues such as origins of infectious disease and biotechnology. The emerging role of evolutionary biology as a scientific discipline is in stark contrast to the continuing efforts to limit teaching evolution in high-schools, or to question evolutionary ideas as a valid province of science. While the teaching of evolutionary biology at both high school and college levels is now struggling to emerge from such censoring and neglect, evolution is still largely taught as a theoretical, dialectical discipline that often seems only to impact on theoretical ideas and broad conceptual landscapes. Rarely is it taught as an experimental, analytical science of applied relevance on a par with, say, physiology or molecular biology. We propose to rectify this situation in two ways. First, we will develop an experimental investigative laboratory in evolutionary biology that can serve as a "flagship" for illustrating how evolution can be taught at the college level as an experimental and investigative science that is societally relevant. We also illustrate how such an investigative course could be run with minimal resources and using a wide range of possible materials. Second, recognizing that curricula and colleges will vary in terms of their ability or desire to commit to such a focused laboratory course, we will also stimulate the teaching evolution as a hands-on science by additionally developing a web-site for distribution via the internet of laboratory exercises in evolutionary biology. Currently, such a resource is not available, and we only know of one manual on teaching evolution as a laboratory course. We will therefore gather, collate, and distribute materials that can be used to enrich discussion sections and laboratory classes.

Specific Goals of NSF Funded Project