Darwin's birth month celebrated at UO museum

Bonobo chimpanzee
Bonobo chimpanzee

The University of Oregon's Museum of Natural and Cultural History will present three speakers and a Darwin-themed family program as part of the international celebration of the birth month of Charles Darwin.

Each talk in the speakers' series – called "Primate Perspectives" – will highlight a different primate population, from long-extinct North American primates to currently endangered African monkeys.

Each event will last an hour and begin at 6 p.m. at the Knight Law Center, 1515 Agate St., Room 110. Admission is free.

The series recognizing Darwin, who was born in February 1809, kicks off on Wednesday, Feb. 13, with birthday cake and a toast to Darwin at 5:30 p.m.

Frances White, a UO professor of anthropology, will then present "What's Love Got to Do with It? Sex for Social Bonding in Bonobos." White's illustrated presentation will discuss fighting, sex and bonding among Bonobo chimpanzees, and how their behaviors can contribute to the understanding of human evolution.

On Wednesday, Feb. 20, physics professor Barry Albright of the University of North Florida will describe his work in Eastern Oregon, where he has been exploring how and why the North American primate population dwindled to a single species by 28 million years ago.

Nelson Ting, a UO anthropology professor, will conclude the series on Wednesday, Feb. 27. Ting will discuss how research on endangered African monkeys can guide future conservation efforts.

The museum will present "Darwin Family Day: Monkeying Around," from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 10. Families will enjoy birthday cake and a performance by the MNCH Marionettes. They'll also learn more about primates – including humans – through several hands-on activities such as fingerprint crafts, an ape and monkey matching game, trying everyday tasks with and without the use of their opposable thumb and an "I Spy" game that challenges visitors to spot primates hidden throughout the exhibits.

UO anthropologists also will display skulls from the UO's Comparative Primate Collection and answer questions about primates and human evolution.

The Feb. 10 event will cost $5 per family (two adults and up to four children). Admission is free for MNCH members and UO faculty, staff and students. New family memberships to the museum will be available at half price during the event.

At each of the Darwin Days events, the museum will collect used cell phones for reuse or recycling. The collection effort, which was planned in partnership with NextStep Recycling, connects directly to this year's focus on primates.

"The mining of a metallic ore required to make cell phones is destroying gorilla habitat and leading to increased poaching," says Lauren Willis, the museum's community education coordinator. "By reusing or recycling cell phones, we can reduce the need for future mining and help conserve critical habitat."

- from the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History