Teaching evolution in U.S. public middle schools
A new study from researchers at the National Center for Science Education and Penn State University is the first systematic attempt to investigate middle school evolution education through a representative survey of science teachers.
The survey found that middle school science teachers who teach evolution reported devoting a substantial amount of classroom time to the topic: 14.6 class hours, or about three weeks of classes, on average. In comparison, high school biology teachers who teach evolution reported devoting 18.6 hours, or about four weeks of classes, to the topic on average.
Branch, G., Reid, A., & Plutzer, E. (2021). Teaching evolution in U.S. public middle schools: Results of the first national survey. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 14(1), 8. doi:10.1186/s12052-021-00145-z
Evolution of the Y chromosome in great apes deciphered
New analysis of the DNA sequence of the male-specific Y chromosomes from all living species of the great ape family helps to clarify our understanding of how this enigmatic chromosome evolved. A clearer picture of the evolution of the Y chromosome is important for studying male fertility in humans as well as our understanding of reproduction patterns and the ability to track male lineages in the great apes, which can help with conservation efforts for these endangered species.
A team of biologists and computer scientists at Penn State sequenced and assembled the Y chromosome from orangutan and bonobo and compared those sequences to the existing human, chimpanzee, and gorilla Y sequences. From the comparison, the team were able to clarify patterns of evolution that seem to fit with behavioral differences between the species and reconstruct a model of what the Y chromosome might have looked like in the ancestor of all great apes.
Cechova, M., Vegesna, R., Tomaszkiewicz, M., Harris, R. S., Chen, D., Rangavittal, S., Medvedev, P., Makova, K. D. (2020). Dynamic evolution of great ape Y chromosomes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(42), 26273-26280. doi:10.1073/pnas.2001749117
A new NCSE/Penn State survey finds impressive gains in evolution education
Public high school biology teachers today are more likely to teach evolution — the conceptual core and organizing principle of the life sciences — as settled science than they were twelve years ago, according to a new rigorous national survey from NCSE and Penn State.
Conducted in 2019 among 752 public high school biology teachers by Eric Plutzer, a political scientist and polling expert at Penn State, the survey was designed to replicate a similar national survey that Plutzer and his colleagues conducted in 2007.
Nose form was shaped by climate
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Big, small, broad, narrow, long or short, turned up, pug, hooked, bulbous or prominent, humans inherit their nose shape from their parents, but ultimately, the shape of someone’s nose and that of their parents was formed by a long process of adaptation to our local climate, according to an international team of researchers.
“We are interested in recent human evolution and what explains the evident variation in things like skin color, hair color and the face itself,” said Mark D. Shriver, professor of anthropology, Penn State. “We focused on nose traits that differ across populations and looked at geographical variation with respect to temperature and humidity.”
The researchers noted today (Mar. 17) in PLOS Genetics that “An important function of the nose and nasal cavity is to condition inspired air before it reaches the lower respiratory tract.”
Gates hoping to inspire love of STEM through genealogy
WASHINGTON (AP) — Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. hopes to trigger a love for science, technology and math among American students by turning them on to searching for their family roots.
Gates, the Harvard University scholar and host of a genealogy show on PBS, and fellow researchers from Spelman College and Pennsylvania State University recently received a $355,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create a genealogy and genetics summer camp for middle school children, as well as a $304,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for college-level courses.
Finding Your Roots curriculum receives $659,000 in grants; PBS series returns in Jan.
A new curriculum based on Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s popular PBS documentary series, Finding Your Roots, received two grants this week: one for $355,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to create Genetics and Genealogy Summer Camps for Middle School-Aged Youth; and one for $304,000 from the National Science Foundation to establish a college program, according to a news release.