Dinosaur Expert Jack Horner to Speak at UNK Evolution Conference in September

Dr. Brad Ericson
Department of Biology, 308.865.8912 or ericsonb@unk.edu

UNK– Dinosaur expert Jack Horner, who was the inspiration of Jurassic Park’s lead character, is among the leading figures in biology who will be presenting at the 2009 Evolution Conference set for Sept. 2-4 in Kearney.

The conference, hosted jointly by the University of Nebraska at Kearney Department of Biology and Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society, will take place at the Kearney Ramada Inn. Presentations by some of the leading figures in modern biology and poster sessions will be held throughout the conference.

According to Dr. Brad Ericson, a UNK associate professor of biology and conference chair, the conference will celebrate two milestones in biology history: Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, which was Feb. 12, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his work, “On the Origin of Species,” on Nov. 24.

“Universities around the world are celebrating these two landmark events, and we wanted to be one of them,” Dr. Ericson said.
There will also be poster sessions presented by college and university graduate students during conference. Featured speakers include Horner, Dr. Shannon Williamson, Dr. Scott Gilbert and Nick Matzke.

Horner, a Regents professor of paleontology at Montana State University, will present “evolution of the Dinosaurs” on Friday, Sept. 4. Horner is the curator at Montana’s Museum of the Rockies and discoverer of the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus Rex to date. Special guest speaker Dr. Shannon Williamson will present “Decoding the Oceans Project” on Thursday, Sept. 3. Dr. Williamson is the director of environmental virology and an investigator in the Department of Microbial and Environmental Genomics at the J. Craig Venter Institute. Nebraska Wesleyan University graduate Dr. Scott Gilbert will present “Evolution of the Turtle Shell” on Friday, Sept. 4. Dr. Gilbert is a professor of biology at Swarthmore College and author of the textbook, “Developmental Biology.”

Nick Matzke, a former public information project director at the National Center for Science Education, will present “Evolution of the Immune System” on Thursday, Sept. 3. Matzke, a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, prepared some of the testimony document for the plaintiffs in the Dover, Penn., “Intelligent Design” trial.

The case, Kitzmiller v. Dover, was the first direct challenge brought in the United States federal courts against a public school district that required the presentation of intelligent design as an alternative to science-based explanations for the origin of life..

On Saturday, Sept. 5, a workshop on teaching evolution in a high school, college or university setting is scheduled at the Bruner Hall of Science from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Participation is limited to 40. Individuals may contact Dr. Ericson at 308.865.1554 for more information.

“We will cover four main topics in the workshop: how to relate the age of the earth and the universe to students, fossil record, biogeography and molecular basis of evolution,” Dr. Ericson said.

Registration is free and open to the public. Meals served on Wednesday and Thursday evening cost $15 and $25, respectively. Reservation for motel rooms, the conference registration, the workshop and meals is through the conference Web site, www.evolution2009.org.