The theory of evolution is a simple but elegant idea that species arose from a common ancestor and that new species continue to arise as a result of natural selection working on the biological diversity of existing populations. Evolutionary Biology is a cornerstone of modern science, and since its introduction by Charles Darwin over 150 years ago it has produced a dramatic paradigm shift in how humans view themselves and all life on this planet. The established truth of evolutionary theory has long been muddled and misinterpreted in American classrooms, which has contributed to an estimated 46% of Americans claiming not to believe in human evolution. This course will explore the history of evolutionary theory, review scientific evidence for evolution-particularly focusing upon the explosion of insights provided by Molecular Biology in the past 20 years, discuss social implications of the theory of evolution, and examine modern challenges like infectious diseases, genetic modification of crops, and climate changes that are particularly interesting from the perspective of evolution. Several sites on the voyage will be significant with regards to the topic of Evolution. Darwin visit to South America played a pivotal role in the formulation of his theory. HIV and drug-resistant tuberculosis are modern examples of evolution in Russia and Africa, Morocco is a treasure trove of Cambrian fossils, and human ancestry traces its origins to Africa.
Field WorkCountry: Belgium
Day: 1 - Antwerp - Sunday, 14 September
The day of the field lab would begin at the Antwerp Zoo, which is one of the oldest zoos in the world (founded in 1843) and within walking distance of the ship (http://www.zooantwerpen.be/). A visit to the zoo would include a focused study of two areas (the monkey and reptile houses). Following this visit the students will take a 36 km (30 minute ride) from the zoo to the National Botanic Garden of Belgium on the northern side of Brussels. The group will be led on a 2 hour tour of “The Evolution House” (one of several greenhouses in the giant Plant Palace) that spans 500 million years of plant evolution from the Jurassic period to the present (http://www.br.fgov.be/PUBLIC/GENERAL/index.php). Local experts will help facilitate both visits. Academic Objectives: 1. Allow students to observe evolutionary differences in animals; primarily in primates, amphibians, and reptiles 2. Allow students to engage in a discussion about the mission of zoos as agents of education and conservation 3. Allow students to observe living species of plants that represents steps of 500 million years of evolutionary progression in the plant kingdom