Thursday, February 12, 2009

Charles Darwin was a Naturalist, Just Like You!

Today is the 200th Anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and I am at the world’s largest scientific conference, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago, Illinois. Everyone here is very excited about this landmark with 2009 being called the Year of Darwin. So why is Charles Darwin a big deal? Well, Charles Darwin was a Naturalist, just like you! A Naturalist is a person who observes and studies nature. Many naturalists are trained as biologists, but you don’t have to have a college degree in science to be a naturalist. When you spend time observing nature in your backyard or neighborhood parks, you are acting as a Naturalist.

In 1831, Charles Darwin began a five year adventure on the HMS Beagle that took him around the world exploring what was then considered the exotic lands of Southern Africa, Australia, South America and the Galapagos. He observed plants, land and marine animals including invertebrates, reptiles, mammals, LOTS of beetles, birds and mammals. Darwin was also a geologist so he took very good notes about the environment, landscape, and soil types of these different lands. It was these observations -- of the lands and of the plant and wildlife -- that caused him to ponder the diversity of life forms. Through his travels, he noticed each land had unique life and geologic forms, yet these differences emerged subtly. He later developed his thoughts into a thesis – the Origin of Species – which interprets the diversity of life by evolution through natural selection.

An illustration from the 100-page comic about the life and ideas of Charles Darwin Darwin: A Graphic Biography by Simon Gurr and Eugene Byrne, © Gurr and Byrne. If you can find a copy of it (print or online) check it out and learn more about Darwin and his adventures.

Happy Birthday Chuck! I Blog for Darwin.

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