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UNG to celebrate Darwin Days

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Dr. Al Mead spoke Monday, Feb. 12, about "Darwin and Paleontology in Georgia: One Degree of Separation" as part of the annual Darwin Days at University of North Georgia's Dahlonega Campus.

To mark Charles Darwin's contributions to the world and celebrate his birth, the University of North Georgia (UNG) biology department and its biological honor society sponsors Darwin Days.

Born Feb. 12, 1809, Darwin is best known for his work as a naturalist. His scientific theory of evolution, released in "On the Origin of Species" in 1859, became the foundation of modern evolutionary studies.

A weeklong celebration of events, Darwin Days' activities are based on a theme. Last year's theme was "Fifty Shades of Darwin." This year's theme is "Darwin Went Down to Georgia."

One of the activities is an art contest with the entries showing a correlation to the theme. Students are able to enter three different categories: written, stationary visual art and costume. A winner is selected from each category and an overall winner is named by a panel of student-faculty judges.

"The contest allows the students to be as creative as they want, and we can't wait to see what they come up with," said Erin Barding, associate professor of biology at UNG. "They paint, draw and write and it fills the walls with Darwin Days entries."

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University of North Georgia (UNG) students submitted an array of entries for the Darwin Days art contest. The pieces will be displayed and judged from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Health and Natural Science auditorium. Attendees may vote on the People's Choice Award. A birthday cake in honor of Charles Darwin will be served.

Entries are showcased at noon Wednesday, Feb. 14, outside the Health and Natural Sciences (HNS) auditorium. Attendees can vote on the People's Choice Award, said Meg Smith, assistant professor of biology at UNG. The overall winner receives a choice between two Atlanta City passes or a 23andme DNA analysis.

"Some of our students are really hoping to win because of the DNA analysis," said Danyelle Aganovic, senior lecturer of biology at UNG.

Following the art showcase, students, faculty and staff will sing "Happy Birthday" to Darwin and help themselves to free cake.

Darwin Days will also feature two speakers at noon in the HNS auditorium. Dr. Al Mead spoke Monday, Feb. 12, about "Darwin and Paleontology in Georgia: One Degree of Separation." On Feb. 16, Russell Cutts will talk about "Mosaic Natural Selection: Beavers, Rivercane and Native Ingenuity in the Pre-contact Southeast."

David Patterson, assistant professor of biology at UNG, said both men are from Georgia with connections to Darwin's evolutionary research. As a paleontologist, Mead will discuss with students the fossil sites in Brunswick, Georgia. While Cutts is a primitive skills expert and can enlighten students about hand drills, fire-making and flint knapping.

Barding said giving UNG students the opportunity to connect with other scientists helps broaden their horizons in more ways than one. Aganovic agreed, saying it shows students the different career paths available to them.

The local connections to evolutionary research also helps students connect in a different way. Patterson said students do not have to go to the Galapagos Islands or a foreign country for a hands-on evolutionary research opportunity. Evidence of evolution exists in Brunswick and many other research projects centered in Georgia, he said.

All four biologists hope their students soak up all they have to offer during Darwin Days.

"Science is work but it is fun," Aganovic said. "We enjoy what we do. I love science and I want my students to love science."

Darwin Days 2018: Darwin Went Down to Georgia

Feb. 12: Dr. Al Mead speaking about "Darwin and Paleontology in Georgia: One Degree of Separation."

Feb. 14: Art contest showcase and birthday cake

Feb. 16: Russell Cutts speaking about "Mosaic Natural Selection: Beavers, Rivercane and Native Ingenuity in the Pre-contact Southeast."

All events will be from noon to 1 p.m. in the Health and Natural Sciences auditorium

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