Monday, April 11, 2011


First of all, I'd like to apologize for the long hiatus. I've been back at the University of Maryland this semester, working and taking classes (and studying for the general and biology GRE), and time has gotten away from me. I'll be getting back to posts on crurotarsans soon.

The first thing that may interest you all is that this summer, I'll be coming at you live from Petrified Forest National Park. I'll be working as an intern there for approximately 10 weeks, doing "hardcore paleontology". I will be working with Bill Parker, a vertebrate paleontologist for the park, whom many of you may know from his blog Chinleana, which focusses on issues of the Late Triassic. Petrified Forest is known for it's petrified wood, but the Late Triassic Chinle Formation that dominates the park is also known for it's diversity of archosaurs, both crurotarsan and dinosaur.

Image by Jeff Marz.

Something else I just wanted to mention real quick is that last week, I was fortunate enough to attend an event on campus featuring an interview and Q&A session with Richard Dawkins. For those of you not familiar with Dr. Dawkins, he is a famous evolutionary biologist, intelligent design critic, and author. Some of his great popular science works on evolution include The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for EvolutionThe Selfish GeneThe Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without DesignThe Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of EvolutionClimbing Mount ImprobableThe Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Popular Science), and River Out Of Eden: A Darwinian View Of Life. I am currently reading Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder, which is the beautiful and rather inspiring thesis of how using science to unravel the mysteries of the universe can be a great source of wonder.

The event on campus the other evening focused on his views on evolutionary biology. Dr. Dawkins is an articulate, intelligent, and witty man. He received both applause and laughter throughout the interview and during the Q&A session, a student even thanked him for inventing the meme. I particularly liked that fact that he advocated for teaching evolution as early as age 7 and that the foundation for learning evolution (like the idea of descent with modification) could be laid as early as 4 or 5. He also suggested a shift in the order in which biology is taught. Many courses start with cell biology and progress towards macrobiology, often ending in evolution and ecology. Instead, he suggested evolution be taught first, which I absolutely agree with because it is indeed true that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" (quote by Theodsius Dobzhansky). In all, it was a great evening.


  1. Evolution should definitely be given higher priority! (For a moment I misinterpreted that as Dawkins having advocated the teaching of evolution when he was age 7. XD)

  2. Haha. That would be great to see a 7-year-old insisting on teaching evolution.

    I've come to realize just how lucky I am to have been in one of the better public school systems in the US. I remember learning about fossil preservation in 2nd grade (age 7) and Darwin's finches in 4th grade (age 9). So many people don't learn about these things until much later.

  3. Yeah, I definitely agree with teaching evolution before other topics in biology (and not just because I find it far more interesting than molecular bio). Most of the time, Evolution and ecology is saved for last, and due to this, it ends up getting skipped completely.

  4. Also, working in the Chinle Formation...that is going to be AWESOME. Wish I could get an internship like that.