Urban Evolution Scientists Discuss Their Work With PS Students and Faculty
Marquis Austin

Last week, the Prep School hosted a discussion with Drs. Elizabeth Carlen, Kristen Winchell and Lindsay Miles, three scientists who study how urbanization affects plant and animal evolution and run the urban research blog Life in the City: Evolution in the Urban Environment. Following an introduction by physics teacher Ilya Yashin, the trio gave students and faculty an overview of their research. They first presented a visualization depicting the rapid growth of urban populations across the globe from 1950 to present day. "The majority of people worldwide now live in cities, and that's supposed to increase even more in the future," said Dr. Winchell. "This has implications for the plants and animals that live there because we're changing what was there before the humans." Dr. Winchell and her colleagues went on to explain how animals face increased habitat fragmentation, air pollution and environmental toxins as their environments continue to transform. They then took a few moments to break down what exactly evolution is and how natural selection and genetic drift are the two primary biological processes that determine the ways in which animals change over time.  

Afterward, attendees were able to pick the brains of these astute scientists and learn more about their work as well as other intriguing topics in science. Everyone was eager to hear about how they became interested in urban evolution, whether urbanization tends to affect coastal regions and more. As the Q&A session began to wrap up, the Life in the City editors were thrilled to answer one particularly amusing and thought-provoking question—could the events of Jurassic Park actually happen? Dr. Winchell, a huge fan of dinosaurs herself, said no. "The DNA we have in fossil dinosaurs is very likely nonexistent or very, very badly degraded. So it's not possible for many reasons," she explained. 

To hear more from this discussion, click here. You can also read more about Drs. Elizabeth Carlen, Kristen Winchell and Lindsay Miles' work by visiting Life in the City: Evolution in the Urban Environment.

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