Center for Evolutionary Studies
Scholars and educators at the Center for Evolutionary Studies explore the history and diversity of life and Earth and promote public education about evolution utilizing the museum's exhibitions, public lectures, and formal classroom training. The Center increases our knowledge of the history of life and catalyzes innovative methods of educating the public about evolutionary processes that impact both science and society.
Chris Beard, PhD, Director
Paleontologist Chris Beard, PhD, has been appointed director of the Center. Beard’s research focuses on evolution of early anthropoids—a group of primates that includes monkeys, apes, and humans. He works with an international team of scientists and visits locations such as Libya and Myanmar (formerly Burma) to search for paleontological evidence. His popular book, The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey, explores anthropoid origins and Beard’s own work that suggests early anthropoids originated in Asia and then colonized Africa, where they began to flourish and eventually would evolve into humans.
One of Beard’s goals for the Center is to help visitors understand and explore the theory of evolution, the observable evidence that supports it, and the scientific questions and debates that are taking place at the edge of exploration about the mechanisms of evolution and its consequences. Through public programming and gallery enhancements, the Center also introduces the public to evolutionary implications that they may not have considered, such as its effect on energy, agriculture, genetics, and medicine, or its past and present relationships to species loss, climate change, plate tectonics, and continental drift.
Recognizing that evolution is a complex concept to understand and teach, Beard sees the Center as being vital to supporting and supplementing evolution studies in public education, and to helping US students become competitive in the global job market. “People from the United States may not be able to compete for jobs in the biomedical or biotechnical fields because they do not have a full understanding of evolution,” says Beard. “Students in other countries such as China and India have an advantage at cutting-edge and high-paying scientific careers because they have a thorough understanding of the concepts and mechanisms of evolution.”
Researchers in the Center for Evolutionary Studies play a pivotal role in promoting natural history museum collections as the evidence for evolution. Learn more on the Curators and Staff page.
Projects and Partners
The Center develops diverse partnerships to utilize natural history collections in informal educational programs and formal curricula. Visit the Projects and Partners page for more information about our collaborations.