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Roanoke College Hosts 8th Annual Darwin Days

Photo Courtesy of Emily Sierra Poertner
Photo Courtesy of Emily Sierra Poertner

By Emily Sierra Poertner


From Feb. 9-13, Roanoke College had its 8th annual Darwin Days celebration. This year, the theme was “The Voyage of the HMS Beagle”. The Beagle was the ship Darwin traveled on while studying natural selection. Darwin’s five year voyage was condensed into a week of lectures and displays.

During the week, there were lectures on a wide assortment of topics. On Monday, Christina Byrd from the Virginia Museum of Natural History gave a lecture on understanding the plesiosaur, a reptile that went extinct during the large extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period. Brett Dooly from Patrick Henry Community College offered insight into Virginia’s geological history on Wednesday. Two Roanoke College professors, Dr. Chris Buchholz and Dr. Lindsey Osterman from the psychology department explored evolutionary psychology on Thursday night.

At every event there were tickets for students to enter into a drawing at the end of the week. Students could fill out a ticket at each event they went to during the week. Since the theme of Darwin Days was the voyage of the Beagle they originally wanted to have the prize be a $250 gift certificate to a travel agency, but they decided to use a visa gift card instead.

The highlight of Darwin Days is the RCAD on Friday night. A scavenger hunt started at 3:00 p.m. on Friday. Teams of four were given a long list of things to find and do. Christy Blevins, junior, said “my favorite item on the scavenger hunt was a purple condom. I found a rainbow one and got half credit.” Judging started as the rest of the Darwin Day events got into full swing.

As always, free t-shirts were available in the Colket Center lobby. The shirts had a map of earth, displaying the path of the HMS Beagle. Randomly in each shirt was a slip of paper telling you if you died, survived just the way you were, or had a beneficial mutation. Those who had a good mutation could choose an extra prize.

Upstairs, the Virginia Museum of Natural History had tables set up so students could see fossils of extinct organisms, as well as full sets of bones from the reference collection. Among the bones were a full deer, a raccoon, a puppy, and several birds. There was a challenge set up which required students to identify a bone found in a Native American food pit, either with a book or the reference collection. Those who properly identified a bone were entered into a drawing to win a 3-D print replica of a raccoon baculum.

The study abroad program showed photos from students’ travels to England, New Zealand, Ireland, and many other places. Students could try different teas, popular in different places around the world.

Last year, many of the Darwin Days events got postponed because of a snow storm. Luckily, this year, the snow held off for the week-long celebration.