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UNK Evolution Symposium to celebrate Darwin's 200th birthday
Travis Schott
Antelope Staff

Evolution symposiums have been scheduled across the world throughout the year in celebration of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday on Feb. 12. Additionally, 2009 also marks the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s seminal publication “On the Origin of Species.”

Several prominent scientists will present at UNK's 2009 Evolution Conference at the Ramada Inn in of Kearney Wednesday through Friday.

“We are very proud to be hosting the conference this year,” said conference organizer and UNK associate biology professor Brad Ericson. “Members of the national science foundation stated our conference has the best line-up of speakers for any symposium throughout the world.”

Those scheduled to speak include several notable biologists, paleontologists, virologists and biochemists.

Michael Kanost, head of biochemistry at Kansas State University, leads one of the world’s premier laboratories dealing with research on insect immunity.  Kanost will present research detailing the evolution of the innate immunity of insects Thursday.

Special guest speaker Shannon Williamson, director of environmental virology at the prestigious J. Craig Venter Institute in Maryland, will discuss her project “Decoding the Oceans Project” Thursday evening. Williamson is a marine viral ecologist.

Dinosaur paleontologist Jack Horner, who is the inspiration behind the film “Jurassic Park,” will be the final speaker to discuss the evolution of dinosaurs Friday.  Horner is currently regents’ professor at Montana State University and museum curator of paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies.

Other speakers include Michael Puruggannan of New York University, Nick Matzke of the University of California-Berkeley, Rob Knight from the University of Colorado and Scott Gilbert of Swarthmore College.

The conference will open Wednesday evening with a welcome barbecue and mixer.  The closing plenary session will take place Frida afternoon, and there will be a high school and college teaching evolution workshop Saturday.

Registration is free for those who wish to attend the symposium.  Additional information can be obtained at You may also or contact Dr. Ericson at 865-1554.


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