Annual Darwin Day Lecture focuses on combating the ‘old boys’ clubs’ of science

Samantha Ruvolo, Staff Writer

Paleobotanist Ellen Currano gave the annual Darwin Day seminar, titled “Tales of Plant Evolution and Ecology Recorded by the Fossils Between the Coal Beds,” in Trout Auditorium on Feb. 23. Currano is a professor of paleobotany at the University of Wyoming and is also involved with the departments of botany, geology, and geophysics.

The Darwin Day seminar was organized and sponsored by the University’s departments of biology and geology, the David Burpee Chair in Plant Genetics & Research Chris Martine, and the University Lectureship Committee. The seminar was an event to honor Charles Darwin, who was born on Feb. 12, 1809. This year’s event has been an ongoing tradition at the University since 2009 and marks the celebration of Darwin’s 208th birthday.

Currano honored Darwin by discussing topics of evolution, mainly concerning coal mine fossils and the progress scientists have made with these studies. Specifically, she studies how fossil plants affect different ecosystems, which can lead to environmental stress and contribute to global warming.

“As a biology major, it’s inspirational to see what I learn in my classes come to life and people who are so passionate about science,” Cullen Jacuzzi ’20 said.

After highlighting her biological studies, Currano also explored the topic of women in science and offered suggestions on how to promote the male-dominated field to more women. Currano founded The Bearded Lady Project, which, according to the project’s website, is a “film and photographic project [celebrating] the work of female paleontologists and [highlighting] the challenges and obstacles they face.”

“Dr. Currano was able to balance her talk with equal amounts paleobotanical research and discourse about the value of women in science. For this reason I found her talk intriguing and encouraging,” environmental studies major Emma Frawley ’17 said. “I think that [her work is] especially powerful for women on Bucknell’s campus to hear; in part because most fields that women go into are like ‘old boy’s clubs,’ and in part because it helped generate a sense of shared importance among women in the room,” Frawley said.

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