Join us for our Darwin Day Lecture, Jeffrey K. Conner Ph.D. will be speaking on Evolution in Your Lifetime: Rapid Adaptation to a Changing Environment.
Most people think of evolution as a slow process that occurs over millions of years, but biologists have repeatedly demonstrated that evolution can be very rapid when environments change. This rapid adaptation can be both good and bad from a human standpoint. It can be bad when pathogenic bacteria, insect pests, and weeds evolve to be more successful and thus make us sick and compete with us for our food. It can also be bad when humans unintentionally exert selection – a prime example is the evolution of smaller fish due to fishing pressure on the largest individuals.
Rapid evolution can be good for humans if it means native species can adapt to the large environmental changes caused by humans and thus avoid extinction. More generally, all life on earth depends on the process of evolutionary adaptation, because species that are not well adapted go extinct. This talk will explain the mechanisms underlying evolutionary adaptation with examples from research on both native species and serious agricultural weeds.