By Katy TerBerg and Helena Witzke
How did flight evolve? What enabled dinosaurs to rise to dominance on Earth? And what’s up with red-tailed hawk that sits by the side of the road watching the traffic go by?
These questions and more will be wrestled with when noted paleontologist Dr. Kevin Padian visits WMU on March 29.
A professor of paleontology and evolutionary biology in UC Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology, and the curator of paleontology in the UC Museum of Paleontology, Padian unites his research interests with a fascination of how large-scale evolutionary changes get started.
Padian will be visiting WMU in March to give two lectures, one specifically for the WMU and Kalamazoo communities. This lecture, titled ”The Origin of Birds and their Flight,” will take place on March 29, and will be held at 6 p.m. in the Kirsch Auditorium of the Fetzer Center. Dr. Padian will give a smaller lecture Friday, March 30. These lectures are free and open to the community.
Padian is a prolific author of scientific articles and books, and has worked tirelessly to improve the standards of science education in the state of California and elsewhere. A recipient of numerous awards, appointments and honors, including serving as a visiting professor at several educational institutions in France, he was elected in 2008 a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was named Western Evolutionary Biologist of the Year.
“My work generally falls into four categories,” said Padian. “The origin of major evolutionary adaptations; the beginning of the ‘Age of Dinosaurs’; systematics, functional morphology, and flight of pterosaurs; and the histology and constructional morphology of the bones of extinct reptiles.”
Padian’s favorite quote is by Charles Darwin, the forefather of the modern evolutionary theory. According to Padian, Darwin sums up just what he enjoys about exploration. “About thirty years ago,” said Darwin, “there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorize; and I well remember someone saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the stones and describe the colors…how odd it is that anyone would not see that all observation must be for or against some view, if it is to be of any service.”