Peter and Rosemary Grant, emeritus professors at Princeton University who have arguably contributed more to human understanding of evolution by natural selection in nature than any other scientists, will speak at Colorado State University April 23 and 24.
The Grants will talk about their research for a general audience at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, at the Lory Student Center Theatre. A second, more technical talk will be at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, in Clark A101.
The Grants are appearing through the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology’s Distinguished Ecologists seminar series.
The legacy of Darwin and his finches lives on today in the research of the Grants, who since 1973 have been conducting research on populations of Darwin’s Finches. Their research has been recognized internationally. Most notably, in 2009 they honored with the Kyoto Prize, which is one of the most prestigious international awards given for lifetime achievement in the arts and sciences. Their work was also popularized in the 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning book, “The Beak of the Finch” by Jonathan Weiner.
In 1835, Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands on the survey ship HMS Beagle. While on these remote islands some 500 miles west of Ecuador, Darwin collected a group of small birds he thought were unrelated to each other because they showed such remarkable differences in bill size and shape. Later when Darwin return to England with his specimens, he was informed that these birds were in fact all closely related species of ground finches found nowhere else on earth. Darwin came to realize while these birds were closely related to species found on mainland South America they exhibited significant changes in their beaks, which were adapted to the different food sources. This group of birds, now known as Darwin’s Finches, ultimately played an important role in the development of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.