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Salem State to host Darwin Festival Feb. 11-15

SALEM — Marking the 210th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth on Feb. 12, Salem State University is holding its 40th annual Darwin Festival Feb. 11-15. The free event is designed to bring current topics in science to the university’s student body and the general public via a series of guest talks and complimentary films.

The Salem State University Darwin Festival began in 1980 and was founded by Virginia Keville and Philip DePalma. The event is now organized by Salem State University’s department of biology with sponsorships from Salem State University and its professors, and the Charles Albert Read Trust from the city of Salem. Other funding is sourced by The Student Government Association through the Biological Society, the SCUBA Club, the Keville DePalma Darwin Festival Endowment Fund, contributions from Hayden McNeil Publishers, Pearson Higher Education, Wiley, and other individual contributions.

The event will feature talks from experts in the human health fields and the ecological science arenas, including: Paul Zambella, forensic scientist formerly at the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory; Stephanie Pierce, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge; Catharine Wang, Department of Community Health at Boston University; Kevin Esvelt of the Media Lab at MIT; and Robert Bonney, president of the North Shore Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby. It will also have two Darwin scholars: Jan Pechenik of Tufts University and James Costa of Western Carolina University.

Event coordinator Lynn Fletcher, associate professor at Salem State University, explains that the event was designed to be interdisciplinary, bringing an assortment of scholars in the sciences and social sciences to campus. She stresses the importance of relationship and partnership among all areas of academic study.

The breadth of the event, in terms of disciplines and topics, is impressive! And yet, everyone is somehow able to tie a topic back into Darwin or the theory of evolution, even if it is just the idea of change through time,” said Fletcher. “It is a real celebration of how science touches all of our lives and how life continues to change and evolve (in the natural world as well as in our thoughts and ideas).”

The goal of the festival is to include diverse subject matter that is attractive and accessible to a wide range of audiences while commemorating the timeless significance of Darwin’s work. The event will feature a range of discussion topics including marine biology, climate change, human health, evolution and animal behavior.

All events are held in Veterans Hall and Slater Lecture Hall at Salem State University. Admission is free and open to the public. To learn more about the festival go to http://w3.salemstate.edu/~pkelly/darwin/schedule.

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