2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)
Paper No. 6-3
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM-9:00 AM

EVOLUTION, ECOLOGY AND EDUCATION: ESTABLISHING THE RELEVANCY OF FOSSIL THREADS IN THE WEB OF LIFE

SAMPSON, Scott D., Utah Museum of Natural History and Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, 1390 East Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City 84112, ssampson@umnh.utah.edu

Efforts to educate children and the general public about biological evolution have suffered a crisis of relevancy. Even for those that accept its veracity, evolution is generally (and mistakenly) envisioned as a process of the past, encompassed by abstract concepts that have little bearing on humans, let alone the future of Earth's diversity. This educational failure, while complicated by a number of factors, is due in large part to a lengthy history of fragmentation and compartmentalization within academia. It is time to foster connections between and among disciplines, and to express these in our educational initiatives.

The web of life is composed of two distinctly different kinds of threads—those that link organisms at any given moment in time through the flow of matter and energy (ecology), and those that link all lifeforms through deep time via genetic information and shared common ancestry (evolution). Seen from this dual and complementary perspective, the two themes are inseparable. Without evolution, our vision is severely limited to the present day and we cannot begin to fathom the blossoming of life's diversity from single-celled forebears. Without ecology, the intricate interconnections we share with the current panoply of lifeforms cannot truly be envisioned. United in a single theme, evolution and ecology provide a powerful lens through which to view life's web, forming the foundation of an integrated and underutilized perspective on nature. In short, we need dramatic increases in levels of both ecological literacy, or “ecoliteracy,” and evolutionary literacy, or “evoliteracy,” with this dynamic pair of concepts reinforcing each other.

The geosciences have a critical role to play in this endeavor. In particular, given its unceasing public interest and focus on deep time, paleontology is uniquely positioned to promote this eco-evolutionary perspective. Such educational efforts, exemplified by innovative programs being developed at the Utah Museum of Natural History and elsewhere, will contribute directly to reconnecting people with nature, with the potential to fundamentally alter worldviews at a time when the sustainability of global ecosystems, and indeed our own species, is seriously imperiled.

2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 6
Speaking Out for Evolution: Rationale and Resources for Supporting the Teaching of Evolution
Salt Palace Convention Center: Ballrooms AC
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Sunday, 16 October 2005

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 37, No. 7, p. 21

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