Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 10:10 AM


BUONGIORNO, Joy, Microbiology, University of Tennessee, M409 Walters Life Sciences, Knoxville, TN 37996, SHEFFIELD, Sarah L., Earth and Planetary Sciences, The University of Tennessee, 306 EPS Building, 1412 Circle Dr, Knoxville, TN 37996 and O'MEARA, Brian, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, 569 Dabney Hall, Knoxville, TN 37996,

The University of Tennessee has one of the longest-running celebrations of Charles Darwin’s birthday (Darwin Day UT) throughout the entire nation. The goal of Darwin Day UT, a faculty and student volunteer-based organization, is to promote evolutionary science education while fostering an interest in science in both the student body and the Knoxville community. The continuation of this event is especially vital in Tennessee now, in light of laws recently passed that allow alternative theories, none of which are based in science, to be taught alongside evolution in public school classrooms; similar bills across the United States have been struck down as unconstitutional.

Darwin Day events are designed to encourage as many people as possible to learn to enjoy science via public lectures, social media, field trips, and public school visits For 2015, programming is centered around the field of biogeography, which integrates the scientific realms of evolution, geography, and geology. In line with the goal of providing science teachers with the tools they need to effectively teach evolution, Darwin Day UT, in affiliation with the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), hosted an annual free teachers workshop in February. This popular workshop presented evolution and biogeography-specific activities in line with TN state standards, as well as allowed teachers to share their experiences with teaching evolution.

Our scheduled programs for this year also included: three nights of lectures and daytime “brown bags” provided by both local scientists and a renowned keynote speaker; field trips to the famous Scopes trial courthouse and to the Smokies to explore how geology affected the biogeography of flora and fauna; creative contests for all ages of students; numerous public school visits by representatives of Darwin Day; and a panel discussion comprising graduate students and faculty across disciplines to explain common misconceptions of evolution.

Teaching evolution in the southeast can often be difficult because of common misunderstandings of the science; Darwin Day works to eliminate these misconceptions and provide the Knoxville community with the opportunity to learn about evolution in a fun and engaging atmosphere.