Explore Evolution

Explore Evolution is a major new partnership between science museums and youth organizations to bring current research on evolution to the public. The project features the work of scientists who are making leading discoveries about the evolution of life. From rapidly evolving HIV to whales that walked, the public is invited to explore evolution in organisms from the very smallest to the largest.

Funded by the National Science Foundation’s Informal Science Education Program with a $2.8 million three-year grant, the project supports the creation of the Explore Evolution exhibit, a web site, a book presenting inquiry-based activities for middle school-aged children, and an extensive audience research program.

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Drawings by Angie Fox

Explore Evolution focuses on seven research projects that have made a major contribution to our understanding of evolution:

  • Charles Wood on the rapid evolution of HIV
  • Edward Theriot and Sherilyn Fritz on the emergence of a new diatom species in the fossil record
  • Cameron Currie on fungus-growing ants and their coevolving partners
  • Kenneth Kaneshiro on sexual selection among Hawaiian flie
  • Rosemary and Peter Grant on Galápagos finches
  • Svante Pääbo on the genetic ties between humans and chimps
  • Philip Gingerich on fossil discoveries of walking whales

Interactive exhibits give visitors an opportunity to experience aspects of the research conducted by the scientists. Explore Evolution opens on January 14, 2006 at the Exhibit Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan. Each of the six partner museums the Explore Evolution consortium will receive a copy of the exhibit for permanent display.

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Museum partners and youth groups

  • University of Nebraska State Museum
  • Exhibit Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan
  • Kansas Museum and Biodiversity Center at the University of Kansas
  • Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma
  • Texas Memorial Museum at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Science Museum of Minnesota
  • Statewide 4-H groups in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Wyoming
  • Huron Valley Girl Scout Council in Michigan

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Visit the Explore Evolution web site for more information and evolution resources at http://explore-evolution.unl.edu/



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Inquiry-based activities for middle-school youth are available as a book, Virus and the Whale, Exploring Evolution in Creatures Small and Large, published by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Press.

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Audience Research
Research on how children and their parents construct their ideas about evolution informs all aspects of the project. Educational psychologist Amy Spiegel heads a research and evaluation team that includes developmental psychologist E. Margaret Evans of the University of Michigan and biologist Wendy Gram. Projects include front-end surveys on evolutionary thinking, a study of visitors’ explanations of evolutionary events, visitor-based formative evaluation, and research on project impacts.

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Calendar of Events

About the Theme

For the Media


Explore Evolution

Testing, Jaq Chartier

Evolution in Action

Endless Forms