Rusty the Giant Sloth poses for a portrait in the Museum of Natural History on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. Rusty is a fitting tribute to the concept of Darwinism. (James Year/The Daily Iowan

Annual Darwin Day celebration set to host numerous scientists


Annual Darwin Day stresses connections between science and the general public.

By Annie Fitzpatrick

Iowa City will celebrate Darwin Day today and Saturday in honor of Charles Darwin and all the achievements that have been made in science.

This year, the program will be focused on evolution and climate change. The weekend will feature talks by renowned scientists, including James Hansen, Jacquelyn Gill, Paul Strode, and Asheley Landrum.

Deirdre Egan, an executive board member of Darwin Day, said the celebration has the ability to engage the community.

“I think it’s just an important way to bring scientific research to the public in a way that’s accessible and easy for people to understand,” Egan said. “Get people excited about the kinds of research that’s going on and the accomplishments that have been made.”

Hansen, an adjunct professor directing the Program on Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has often been described as the “father of climate-change awareness.”

“It’s a tragic situation where … stabilizing climate, the actions that you need to take actually make sense for other reasons, and so there’s no reason we shouldn’t do it,” he said.

Hansen’s talk will take place at 4:45 p.m. today in 101 Biology Building East. The discussion will revolve around climate change and the complex policies that mitigate and enforce the risks and opportunities for the planet’s future.

Darwin Day has been celebrated in Iowa for many years and focuses on bringing the scientific community to the people of Iowa City in an exciting and meaningful way. The program’s goal is to engage as much of the community in the scientific discussions as possible.

Maurine Neiman, a UI associate professor of biology, stressed the sense of inclusion.

“Trying to figure out ways to connect more to the public and involve more than just science and scientists … to involve other aspects of humanity that we think are relevant and important, like art, and literature, and making those sorts of connections,” she said.

This year’s celebration featured a design contest for the Darwin Day T-shirt. The winner’s design is featured as the official apparel of the event, encompassing an artistic outlet for the event.

Darwin Day also brings the scientific community and its discoveries to the public in new ways that reach a broader and more diverse audience.

Drew Kitchen, a UI assistant professor of anthropology, praised the connection to the Iowa City and the way to reach a scientifically curious audience in more captivating ways.

“It also provides an outlet for me to feel like I’m giving back more to the community as opposed to through my teaching,” Kitchen said. “This is more of a tangible feeling of I’m helping my community, and this is something that people appreciate.”

Darwin Day is a celebration of the scientific community and its achievements while incorporating the community into discussions of important issues, Kitchen said.

“Break down that barrier between anyone who happens to be in Iowa City and the people who are making new discoveries about the world,” he said.

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