Evolution on display in Austin

Header for evolution display at Texas Memorial Museum

No, unfortunately, not at either the State Board of Education/Texas Education Agency nor the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

At a better place, perhaps. A permanent exhibit on evolution, “Explore Evolution, opened October 1 at the Texas Memorial Museum at the University of Texas. The exhibit, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, explains evolution for students. It appears essentially the same at six different museums in the Midwest:

  1. Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan
  2. Kansas Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center
  3. The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
  4. Science Museum of Minnesota
  5. University of Nebraska State Museum, and
  6. Texas Memorial Museum at the University of Texas.

Explore Evolution permanent exhibit opens Sept. 10 at NU State Museum

Lincoln, Neb., Sept. 7, 2005 — Using cutting edge research, a new exhibit at the University of Nebraska State Museum gives a modern shine to Charles Darwin’s 146-year-old theory on evolution. The permanent exhibit, Explore Evolution, which opens to the public Sept. 10, was developed by a consortium of six partner museums led by the NU State Museum and prominently features the work of two UNL scientists.

The project is made possible by a $2.8 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s Informal Science Education program and consists of nearly identical permanent exhibit galleries at six partner museums in the Midwest and South — regions where evolution education is controversial. Other components of the project include a Web site, inquiry-based activities for middle-school children in the form of a book titled “Virus and the Whale, Exploring Evolution in Creatures Small and Large,” and collaborations with five statewide 4-H programs.

“Interested 4-H’ers will have the opportunity to explore exciting scientific concepts and cutting-edge research methods,” said Bradley Barker, UNL 4-H.

Priscilla Grew, director of the museum, said the exhibit is a big win for Nebraska.

“By funding the Explore Evolution project, the National Science Foundation has elevated UNL’s State Museum into a national leadership position in museum science education,” she said. “Evolution has been called the cornerstone of modern biology. The scientific understanding of evolution is fundamental to advances in modern medicine, agriculture and biotechnology. It is essential both to scientific research on the biodiversity of today’s world, and to the scientific interpretation of the fossil record through geologic time.”

The museum exhibit features seven current research projects, each presenting a major discovery about the evolution of life by a leading scientist or team of researchers. Through graphics and interactive displays, museum patrons explore evolution in organisms ranging form the smallest to the largest.

UNL’s contributions to the project are significant. While the exhibit galleries were built by the Science Museum of Minnesota, a team from UNL played major roles in the creation of the artwork and content. Judy Diamond, professor at the NU State Museum, wrote the original grant request for the project and is the team leader on the project. Research from two UNL scientists — virologist Charles Wood and geologist Sherilyn Fritz — is featured in two of the seven sections of the exhibit.

Wood’s research takes him to central Africa to study how the HIV/AIDS virus is transported from mothers to their infants. Wood’s research showcases the virus and how it evolves rapidly in newborns, with new strains being produced that are resistant to the infant’s immune system.

Fritz, working with Edward Theriot from University of Texas at Austin, used core samples from Yellowstone Lake to investigate the evolution of an organism called a diatom. Sampling tracks the diatom’s evolution from the lake’s formation 14,000 years ago and shows how diatoms — which are good barometers of climate change — developed within the first 4,000 years of the lake.

Other scientific endeavors featured in Explore Evolution include Cameron Currie’s work on farmer ants and their coevolving partners; Kenneth Kaneshiro on sexual selection among Hawaiian flies; Rosemary and Peter Grant on Galapagos finches; Svante Paabo on the genetic ties between humans and chimps; and Philip Gingerich on fossil discoveries of walking whales.

Museums partnering with the UNL State Museum include the Exhibit Museum of Natural History of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; the Kansas Museum and Biodiversity Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence; the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma in Norman; the Texas Memorial Museum at the University of Texas at Austin; and the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.

“Explore Evolution features the latest science museum technology including multimedia and interactive exhibits that show how research is being done on evolution by scientists working today,” Grew said. “It offers visitors engaging opportunities to learn about some of the most exciting recent discoveries and scientific questions in biological evolution. It brings Morrill Hall right up to date with the latest in natural history.”

For more information on Explore Evolution, go online to http://explore-evolution.unl.edu.

About the Exhibit

Explore Evolution investigates evolutionary principles in organisms ranging from the smallest to the largest. The project focuses on seven research projects that have made a major contribution to our understanding of evolution. The new permanent interactive exhibit galleries give visitors an opportunity to experience how scientists conduct research on evolution. This exhibit features the work of the following scientists:

The museums have already conspired to involve children in the learning process

A consortium of six museums in the Midwest and South are working together with five statewide 4-H programs to make evolution accessible to young people and the general public. Our 4-H partners include the statewide youth development programs in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Wyoming.


Go see it before Lizette Reynolds can neutralize it.

Texas Natural Science Center
Texas Memorial Museum
2400 Trinity Street
Austin, TX 78705

Mission Statement:

“To encourage awareness and appreciation of the interplay of the biological, geological and environmental forces as they have shaped, are shaping and will shape our world.”

3 Responses to Evolution on display in Austin

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    If transitional forms are not discovered then my theory is false – Charles Darwin

    That’s not a legitimate quote. Darwin never said it, never wrote it.

    Hoax quotes tend to get under my own cuticle in a particularly irritating way. In this case, the quote is a hoax, but thousands of transitional forms have been discovered, more than Darwin thought reasonable to assume. So the claim that Darwin said his theory would be falsified if no transitionals were found is a fraud on two counts: Darwin never said it, but transitionals have been found thousands of times over.


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Read what Darwin actually wrote — you’ve cut his quote right at the part where he starts describing how eyes evolved. That’s not very sporting of you — nor is it accurate.

    Transitional forms? You’ve never heard of mustard?

    Here, get some information, on transitionals only among the vertebrates:

    If you need more, I’m sure they have a listing of other transitionals in invertebrates, plants, bacteria, etc.

    Google doesn’t work on your computer? No library close by?


  3. formerthings says:

    To think the human eye came about by natural selection is I freely confess absurd
    in the highest degree – Charles Darwin

    If transitional forms are not discovered then my theory is false – Charles Darwin

    Zero discovered…you have to love stupid people.


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