5th annual Darwin Day set for Feb. 12

Each year, SIUE’s Department of Biological Sciences celebrates Darwin Day by hosting a speaker in its Ralph W. Axtell Lecture Series. The event takes place around the birthday of Charles Darwin and celebrates his enormous contribution to science, particularly the theory of evolution by natural selection (published jointly with Alfred Russel Wallace) that underpins all aspects of modern biology. The lecture series is named in honor of the late Dr. Ralph Axtell in recognition of his many contributions to the University and to science.

An archaeologist whose research focuses on human evolution will present the fifth annual Darwin Day Lecture at SIUE on
Monday, Feb. 12. This year’s lecture is a joint venture between the departments of Biological Sciences and Anthropology, with support from the Wildlife & Conservation Biology Club, and will take place at 4 p.m. in Dunham Hall Theater. Dr. Sheela Athreya, who specializes in Pleistocene hominin evolution and is an Associate professor in the department of Anthropology at Texas A&M University, will give the address.

Dr. Athreya focuses on human evolution in the Middle and Late Pleistocene. She looks at patterns of craniofacial variation within and among populations of Middle Pleistocene Homo species in order to understand the role of these populations in modern human origins.

“I am particularly interested in questions of phylogeny and systematics–that is, who was related to whom in the Pleistocene? I try to apply the most appropriate and powerful quantitative methods to these questions, and include a critical examination of how different methodological approaches can lead to differing analytic conclusions,” adds Athreya.

Dr. Athreya is currently conducting fieldwork in Gujarat, India, that has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society. Her fieldwork experience also includes participating in the Narmada Basin Paleoanthropology Project in the central Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh, India. Further, she has worked on excavations at Lower and Upper Paleolithic sites in France and a Harappan site in western India.  Dr. Athreya has also conducted research in museums throughout Europe, Asia and Africa looking at the original fossils of most Middle Pleistocene specimens.

Dr. Athreya’s talk will also be recognized as the Biological Sciences’ Ralph W. Axtell Lecture, with the event funded in part through student activity fees. The lecture and reception that follow are free and open to the public; parking will be available in Lot B (Visitor’s Lot.)

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