Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies


OCEES presents the Darwin Lecture and the Kitzmiller Lecture each year





4:30 pm  MONDAY February 174th  BAKER THEATRE

Dr. Mike Webster

Professor, Cornell University

Director of the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Darwin & Misperceptions:

What Evolution Isn't  

       Mike has studied sexual selection and the mating behavior of wild birds all over the world.  He is particularly fascinated by “cryptic” reproductive behaviors such as extra-pair copulations and brood parasitism, the evolution of sexual signals. Mike is also dedicated to outreach that helps others experience and appreciate animal behavior and the evolutionary processes that have shaped our natural world.. So his DARWIN LECTURE will focus on misperceptions about evolution.  Evolution is one of the key building blocks of modern biology yet it is not accepted by most Americans.  Dr. Webster will address misunderstandings about what evolutionary biology tha fuel the debate over “intelligent design” and that intentionally or not, and are often echoed in the media.

           FLYER for this event









Dr. Patricia Wright

Professor of Anthropology, Stony Brook University

Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments

If only Darwin had

gone to Madagascar..  

       Patricia Wright, PhD is an accomplished primatologist, anthropologist, and conservationist. Having spent nearly three decades studying of social behavior and ecology of wild lemurs Madagascar she is recognized as the world’s foremost expert on lemurs.  She has also led conservation efforts to preserve lemurs and their forests as founder and Director of the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments, the Centre ValBio and she spearheaded the establishment of Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar.

      Her Darwin Lecture will examine the evolution of lemurs, which may have peaked Darwin’s interests more than the Galapagos Finches did, if the Beagle had made a stop in Madagascar. 



http://home.patriciacwright.org/            FLYER for this event

photo credit www.northshoreoflongisland.comical






Dr. Jacques Gauthier

Professor, Geology & Geophysics & Curator, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History


“Not Your Parents’ Dinosaurs: The Role of Crown Dinosaurs and Stem-Birds in Evolutionary Theory

Did you know that tyrannosaurs had feathers? New fossils have dramatically altered our understanding of dinosaur evolution.  In a triumph for the predictive power of the Darwin’s ‘Theory of Descent’, they provide more support of the idea that birds are in fact living (crown) dinosaurs.  But this also means that other species such as Diplodocus and Triceratops are in fact early (stem) birds.  This may not seem intuitive, as those extinct giants are so different from one another and from the diminutive hummingbirds of today.  However, our job as evolutionists should be less concerned with similarity and more focused on discovering common-ancestry relationships.  And on that point there can be no doubt:  dinosaurs share a deep genealogical connection with birds.  Although this hypothesis has been the simplest explanation for the available data from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, it continues to meet resistance. The history of this controversy can teach us some profound lessons about the scientific enterprise, not the least of which is that although science as a process may be objective, people are scientists, and they sometimes aren’t.



 March 8th 2012     -   4pm       Baker Center Theatre

Dr. Ross MacPhee presented “Fireballs from heaven, climate change, diseases, or men with spears: Explaining (or not) ice age extinctions”

         During the last ice age, a spate of mysterious extinctions affected mammals (and, to a lesser extent, birds and reptiles) on a nearly worldwide basis. These extinctions were peculiar in several respects. On mainlands large (megafaunal) species were at particular risk.  On islands, whole vertebrate faunas disappeared or were reduced to a fraction of their former diversity. Some losses were sudden, others were protracted and they were not synchronous. Similar dieoffs occurred in Australia, New Guinea, the Mediterranean and Madagascar. Astoundingly, nearby Africa escaped almost unscathed.

       Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace were principally concerned with species origination, not extinction. Yet they were fully aware that something dire had happened to the world’s fauna in the recent past: Wallace noted that “the sudden dying out of so many large Mammalia, not in one place, but over half the land surface of the globe … has hardly been sufficiently dwelt upon.”

       More than 150 years on, late Quaternary extinctions remain a scientific puzzle. In this presentation I will examine current explanations, grouped under four headings: humans did it (“overkill”),  climate change did it (“overchill”),  infectious disease did it (“overill”),  or a fireball did it (“overgrill”).  Missing evidence still limits historical inferences but new approaches, such as ancient DNA, are helping to reveal what happened to all the hugest, and fiercest, and strangest animals that recently roamed our planet.


 Dr. MacPhee is Curator of Mammology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.




2010-11> Three National Academy of Sciences Speakers



 May 4th 2011     -   Noon       Baker Center Ballroom

Dr. Richard Lenski presented

Evolution in Action: Bugs and Bytes

Most of us discovered of evolution as children visiting museums and seeing the fossil remains of extinct organisms from long ago.  Today biologists use the fact of evolution to make sense of the similarities and differences in the genomes, physiology, morphology, and behavior of organisms.  Evolution is often thought of as something that happened in the past, but evolution is also an on-going process that is easily observed. Dr. Lenski will show you experiments on evolution in two different realms - bacterial (bugs) and digital (bytes).  Over 20 years ago, he started a simple experiment with 12 identical populations of E. coli, and these bacteria have been evolving in my lab for over 50,000 generations.  He has been watching them as they evolve both in their outward phenotypes and underlying genomes. More recently, Dr Lenski joined a computer scientist, a philosopher, and a physicist to study artificial life that evolves inside a computer.  These digital organisms are programs that replicate, mutate, compete, and change over time.  Complex functions have evolved that require the coordination of many instructions, and they have studied each step along the way to see how these functions arose.  Worldwide research is turning to experimental evolution in both biological and computational realms and he will briefly highlight other interesting findings as well.  

 Dr. Lenski holds the Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbial Ecology in the program in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University.  He is a fellow at the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A previous MacArthur Fellow, Dr. Lenski was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2006.  With his expertise in evolution he co-founded the NSF Science and Technology Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. Known as the BEACON Center it focuses on applied and experimental research on evolutionary dynamics.


Photo credit: Michigan State University




June 2011 OU Anthropology Club DARWIN LECTURE

 February 17th, 4pm - Baker Center Ballroom

Dr. C. Owen Lovejoy presented

               “Ardi, Lucy and the Origins of Humans

Biological Anthropologist, Owen Lovejoy will examine the origins of humans with evidence from his work on the new hominid “Ardi” (Ardipithecus ramidus) and the early hominid “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis).


Dr. Lovejoy is a University Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at

Kent State University.   He is well known for his work on reconstructing "Lucy" a nearly complete fossil of an early bipedal hominid that lived about three million years ago. His research has covered a broad spectrum of biological areas with a focus on the evolution of early hominid skeletal systems and locomotion. In 2007 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and he is currently the director of the Matthew Ferrini Institute For Human Evolutionary Research at Kent State University.

Photo credit: Kent State University



November 2010


 November 4th 2010  4pm - Baker Center Theatre

Dr. David Hillis presented

               “Applications of the Tree of Life

Hillis will discuss progress in understanding the evolutionary history
of life, and will focus on some of the many practical applications of 
this information.  Some of the applications he will discuss include 
fighting emerging diseases, developing new vaccines, conservation 
applications, and developing new tools to increase public access to 
information about biodiversity.


Dr. Hillis is the Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professorship in Natural Sciences at the University of Texas, a previous MacArthur Fellow and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences the United States National Academy of Sciences.  He is a leader in developing the field of bioinformatics and phylogenetic analysis, and has co-authored Molecular Systematics and Life: The Science of Biology, one of the leading college introductory textbooks on biology.  Dr. Hillis has served as President of the Society for the Study of Evolution and President of the Society of Systematic Biologists.  At the University of Texas, Dr. Hillis has served as Director of the School of Biological Sciences and the Director of the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.  He also owns and operates the Double Helix Ranch, where he raises Texas Longhorn Cattle. 

Photo credit: University of Texas



June 2010


  - -honoring the people who established that intelligent design is creationism- -

Wednesday June 2nd       NOON      Baker Center Ballroom

     Dr. Elliott Sober

 View Powerpoint slides here

Darwin and Intelligent design

After reviewing the basic ideas in evolutionary theory, I'll consider how the theory is related to the question of whether one should believe in God.  I argue that the theory does not conflict with belief in God, though it does conflict with some specific religious claims, like young earth creationism.
I also argue that the theory does not conflict with the existence of a God who sometimes intervenes in nature. I then consider what biologists mean by mutations' being "undirected."  I'll conclude with some discussion of Darwin's own views of creationism, the existence of God, and Christianity.


     Dr. Sober is Hans Reichenbach Professor & William F. Vilas Research Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and author of Evidence and Evolution - The Logic Behind the Science (2008) and 9 other books about adaptation, natural selection and the philosophy, psychology, and politics of evolutionary biology.


February 2010


Hyperlink to the lecture provided by the Department of African Studies

February 12th 2010 Baker Center Ballroom


      Dr. Catherine Badgley presented


From Fossils to Food: A Darwinian Perspective on the Modern Biodiversity Crisis

relating animal extinction over time and space to the current impact of human activities on global biodiversity and the influences of accelerating global climate change.  


    Dr. Badgley is internationally known for her work on the paleontology of climate change and extinction and the conflict between sustainable agriculture and sustainable biodiversity. She is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan and past-president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology


April 2009

2009 OCEES KITZMILLER LECTURE honoring the people who established that intelligent design is creationism. 

April 6th 2009    Baker Center Ballroom

Dr. Kevin Padian presented “Darwin, Dover and intelligent design” featuring his experiences with the Kitzmiller vs. Dover court case.

Dr. Padian, one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists and dinosaur biologists, is Professor of Integrative Biology and Curator in the University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley and the President of the National Center for Science Education. 

With his expertise in phylogenetic relationships, homology, and the nature of science he was called to testify in the Dover, Pennsylvania court case that put "intelligent design" on trial in 2005. This US Federal Court case was brought against a public school district  requiring that "intelligent design" be provided as an alternative to evolution as to explain the origin of life.  The plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and thus, the school board policy violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The OCEES KITZMILLER LECTURE is named in honor of the eleven parents from the Dover school district who filed this suit.

Dr. Padian is the author of numerous books and over a hundred scientific articles. He has been active in K-12 science curriculum standards and textbook adoption in California. His numerous awards and honors include the Carl Sagan Award for the Popularization of Science and election as a  Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


February 2009


Baker Center Ballroom

Dr. Nina G. Jablonski presented “Darwin's birthday suit: The evolution of human skin and skin color” featuring biological and cultural aspects of human skin - a highly visible and excellent example of evolution by natural selection acting on the human lineage.  

Dr. Jablonski is internationally known for her work on primate biology, culture and language and is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the Pennsylvania State University. 

We had a grand day celebrating Darwin's 200th birthday!



February 2008



   For more information please see press release by Ohio University Research Communications  


   For more information: call 740 593-0424 or contact reilly@ohiou.edu  The Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies, Department of Biological Sciences, 107 Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701.