Issue 8
Monday, 23 May 2016
Charles Darwin University
Charles Darwin Scholars emeritus professors Peter and Rosemary Grant
Charles Darwin Scholars emeritus professors Peter and Rosemary Grant

Scholars to present evidence of rapid evolution

By Patrick Nelson

Two eminent American scholars will present evidence at the Charles Darwin Oration next month that evolution can be observed within a human lifetime.

Princeton University emeritus professors Peter and Rosemary Grant will base their evidence in part on their lifelong research into “Darwin’s Finches” on the Galapagos Islands when they present the Oration in Darwin and Alice Springs.

“One of the key scientific achievements of our careers has been to reveal just how fast evolution can occur in a natural system unaffected by humans,” Professor Peter Grant said.

Their findings are in contrast to Charles Darwin’s view that evolution was a process where change needed to be viewed over near-geological timescales.

“The fields of genetics, behaviour and ecology since Darwin’s time have done much to illuminate how and why species evolve,” Professor Grant said.

“We will discuss the progress that has been made in our understanding of speciation with reference to the young radiation of Darwin’s Finches, combined with laboratory investigations of the molecular genetic basis of beak development.”

The husband and wife team is known internationally for demonstrating rapid evolution in response to changes in food supply and their elucidation of the mechanisms by which new species arise and genetic diversity is maintained in populations.

Earlier this year the Grants were appointed as the 2016 Charles Darwin Scholars in a biennial program to enrich the understanding of the work and legacy of CDU’s namesake, Charles Darwin.

They will be based at the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods on Casuarina campus during June. In addition to delivering the Charles Darwin Oration “Evolution in Action – Charles Darwin and the Galapagos Finches”, they will assist with a rerun of the Charles Darwin, Evolution and Tropical Australia MOOC.

The 2016 Charles Darwin Oration: 


Thursday June 9, 5.30pm – 7.30pm in the University Theatre, Orange 3, Casuarina campus. RSVP June 6,

Alice Springs:

Monday June 27, 5.30pm – 7.30pm in the Higher Education Lecture Theatre, Building 15, Alice Springs campus. RSVP June 23,