The Evolution Project at the Paleontological Research Institution
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Science at PRI

In April 2009, Dr. William J. Zinsmeister, a professor of geology at Purdue University transferred his entire research collection to PRI. The Zinsmeister Collection contains approximately 5,510 lots (almost 22,000) specimens of Cretaceous-to-Eocene fossil mollusks from Seymour Island, Antarctica, and its Vicinity, and is widely recognized as among the largest and finest in the world from this region. Until its arrival at PRI, the collection had not previously been easily available to researchers outside of Purdue University. To remedy this situation, PRI's Collections Department will begin a two-year project this summer funded by the National Science Foundation to make information about the collections more widely available to researchers, and to stimulate and assist future research. The collection will be upgraded to the highest curatorial standards and we will be creating an online object record and image database. The project aims to promote future Antarctic research and to help educators raise awareness of climate change, extinction, and evolution as part of their teaching programs.

The evolution of life is a central unifying principle of modern science, and it is integrally connected to much of our understanding of how Earth systems work and evolve. PRI's world-class collections of fossils help tell the story of the evolution of the Earth, and our programming helps educators, students, and the public understand what evolution is and how scientists study it.

What's New?

Summer Symposium
August 13 - August 14, 2010

Join us on Friday, August 13 and Saturday, August 14 for our fourth annual Summer Symposium. The Symposium is an opportunity to share recent research, conduct field work, visit PRI's collections, and interact with colleagues and students. Click here for more information and to register.

PRI Abroad
PRI will be well-represented at the Third International Palaeontological Congress (IPC) in London June 28 to July 3. PRI's Director, Warren Allmon and our Director of Collections Greg Dietl will be there presenting papers, as will Warren's graduate student Ursula Smith, who just received her PhD at Cornell.
IPC is a major international meeting held once every 4 years under the auspices of the International Palaeontological Association. The meeting provides a showcase for all that is exciting and new in the fields of palaeontology and palaeobiology.

PRI will also be heading to Thailand this summer. PRI's Associate Director for Science, Paula Mikkelsen, is now preparing for the World Congress of Malacology, which will be held in Phuket, Thailand, July 18 to 24. She will present an invited talk on "Publishing in Malacology" as part of the symposium "The Past 50 Years in Malacology: Specialization, Methodological Transformation, and Globalization." She is also co-organizer and co-author on several presentations in the symposium "Evolution of the Bivalvia." This symposium, exploring the current issues and developments in bivalve evolution, classification, anatomy, and biodiversity, is being organized in the context of her ongoing Bivalve Tree-of-Life grant (, in which PRI is a major partner.

"On the Origins of Darwin's Impertinence"
An Excerpt from the article in American Paleontologist V18.1
by Kip Ault

Today's world owes a dept to Charles Darwin's curiosity, to his penchant for asking impertinent questions about the nature of nature. Biologist Ernst Mayr, tellingly asked "What made Darwin such a great scientist and intellectual innovator?" To answer he employed Kipling's famous phrase: "He was a superb observer, endowed with an insatiable curiosity. He never took anything for granted but always asked why and how. Why is the fauna of islands so different from that of the nearest mainland? How do species originate? Why are the fossils of Patagonia so similar to Patagonia's living biota?"

You can read the rest of the article to learn more about how Darwin's youth
shaped the man's curiosity on our website where we have past issues of American Paleontologist available for free download. You can access the pdf for Volume 18.1 by clicking here. This article begins on page 29 of the magazine.

Fancy yourself a Darwin scholar? Put your knowledge to the test with a quick Darwinian Trivia Quiz.

Evolution in the News

"Prehistoric Sea Dragons Kept Themselves Warm"
June 10, 2010 - Discover Magazine's Not Exactly Rocket Science Blog
Plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and mosasaurs could regulate their own body temperature!  Learn more here.

"Paternal Bonds, Special and Strange"
June 14, 2010 - The New York Times
You'll have to forgive a good deal of anthropomorphizing, but just in time for Father's Day... Learn more here.

"Bad News: From MRSA to LRSA"
June 15, 2010 - Science Blogs
Sometimes evolution news about medicine is grim. (Throw out your hand sanitizer...) Learn more here.

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