Roanoke gears up for annual Darwin Days

Darwin Days is back.

The plight of bees is the theme of this annual series of events at Roanoke College that celebrates the life and accomplishments of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin and his influence on science and humanity. The celebration is held in February to coincide with Darwin's Feb. 12 birthday, according to the International Darwin Day Foundation's website. This year, the College's weeklong string of events begin Feb. 11 and run through Feb. 14.

Dr. DorothyBelle Poli, a Roanoke biology professor, introduced Darwin Days to the campus seven years ago, and each year its popularity has grown.  

"Darwin is often vilified because people don't know about him," Poli said. "It's important to educate others of his influence on modern life. There isn't a single major on campus that he hasn't impacted."

One of the week's most popular events is a scavenger hunt, sponsored by the College's Biology Club, and planned this year for Feb. 14. Last year more than 75 students attended the hunt, searching for a list of items that included a lawn gnome, a college professor's high school yearbook and a CD of 98 Degrees.

Teams frequently must pose for photos, including wearing tin foil hats, eating green eggs and ham and doing a Charlie's Angel pose at the Roanoke College sign.

Cash prizes are awarded to first, second and third place teams as well as teams with the most creativity, most items overall and those that find the secret item.

This year, the team with the most points will receive a $1,000 cash prize.

To participate, teams of four should contact Dr. Chris Lassiter, a biology professor at Roanoke.

The hunt is Feb. 14 at 3:45 p.m.

Check out all of the week's Darwin Days events below:

Tuesday, Feb. 11
Reconstructing Buttercup, from bone fragments to a skull
6:30 p.m., Massengill Auditorium
Darwin Days will kick off with a lecture by Dr. Alton Dooley, a paleontologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.
Dooley will speak on a remarkably preserved young whale, Buttercup, which Roanoke College students helped to find and excavate from the Carmel Church Quarry in Virginia. He will explain his field of interest while describing how to put fossils back together when all of the pieces are missing.

Wednesday, Feb. 12
Movie Showing of "Vanishing of the Bees"
7 p.m., Massengill Auditorium
One out of every three bites of food we eat, honey bees have made, yet society often forgets their importance. Honeybees are responsible for producing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and our knowledge only includes the fear of a bee sting. This movie explores the growing devastation to the bee population, and how world agriculture would also come crashing down if bees were extinct. This documentary focuses on bees and their importance to society and the impact their vanishings could have for our ecosystem. If they die, we die.   
Roanoke alumni Howland Blackiston '73 of Connecticut, author of "Beekeeping for Dummies," will speak before the movie, addressing key aspects on the history of honeybees and their performance in society. Blackiston's book is a bestseller on the topic of beekeeping, and it is one of the top five best-selling titles in the "For Dummies" series of reference books.

Thursday, Feb. 13
When Natural Selections Gets Sneaky: Altruism, Suicide and Evolution
7 p.m., Massengill Auditorium
Why do we behave the way we do? Is it genetic predisposition, a discovered knowledge or the combination of the two?
In this discussion, Dr. Lindsey Osterman, an assistant professor in Roanoke's Psychology department, will explore the theory of evolution by natural selection to explain why some traits and behaviors are likely to survive and others are not. Using her background in psychology and evolutionary biology, she will address why certain behaviors are classified as beneficial or as destructive.

Friday, Feb. 14
Scavenger Hunt, 3:45 p.m.

Roanoke College After Dark events
Gene Pool: A pool of mutated genes will populate the Colket Center as students pool for good mutations. The Gene Pool will give away 300 free t-shirts with a random paper inside stating if the genes mutations are good, bad or neutral.  Good mutations will receive an extra prize.
Fossil display and cast workshop: The Virginia Museum of Natural History will set up shop displaying a wide variety of fossils and even host a cast workshop for the first 100 students to create their own fossil molds. Students can also enter a raffle to win a cast of fossils found in the museum.
Bee Dance competition: Dance the night away to celebrate Darwin's birthday in the Bee Dance Competition. If dancing isn't your skill, play trivia or compete in water pong. Prizes will be given at each game.
Bee Art: Roanoke College senior Travis Lumpkin will display his own unique Bee Art collection. It will be exhibited in the upstairs of the Colket Center all week. 
Blue Bear Natural Skin Care, a Roanoke College company, will demonstrate its homemade, all natural soaps, made from 21 minerals found in the Blue Ridge Mountains and natural plant oils.
Tea and honey pairing: Enjoy a tea and honey pairing test with Roanoke College senior Jordan Hutton, while learning about the impact that plants and bees have on food and beverages.

Released: February 6, 2014
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