How Does Evolutionary Biology Contribute to Society?

Many folks think of evolution as a topic relevant only to Darwin and a few scientists. In reality, evolution touches your life every day. The cereal you eat for breakfast comes from a grain that has evolved to its current state after generations of artificial selection by humans. If you get a flu shot, the reason you have to get one every year is that viruses constantly evolve, and a vaccine that works this year may not work next year. If you wash your hands with antibacterial soap, you will kill some bacteria, but other bacteria may have mutations that make them resistant to the agent used in the soap. Evolution is going on all around us all the time; if we want to help make decisions to protect the environment and ensure a healthy future and a plentiful food supply, we need to understand how it works. Now that you have completed several modules covering various aspects of the theory of evolution, we want you to apply that knowledge to some real-word examples. For this assignment, you should

1. Open the .pdf attachment labeled Evolution, Science, and Society: Evolutionary Biology and the National Research Agenda (a project sponsored by the A. P. Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation in 1998).

2. In the .pdf, scroll to “How Does Evolutionary Biology Contribute to Society?” (page 5)

3. There are 6 topics listed on that page. We ask that you pick one of the following 5 topics as the subject on which you will write your paper (NOT “Understanding Humanity”): Environment and Conservation Agriculture and Natural Resources Finding Useful Natural Products Human Health and Medicine Biotechnology

Select ONE of these topics and investigate it. To begin, search for the topic/keyword in the actual report (hint: use the find function in your browser / PDF reader). Look for specific examples of how evolution is related to your topic. Next, perform an internet search on your topic to find more examples and add to what you have already learned. You need to identify at least 4 specific examples related to your topic.

4. For each of your 4 examples, write a brief paragraph (3-5 sentences minimum) describing what it is and explaining how this example demonstrates that understanding the principles of evolutionary biology contributes to society.

Be specific! If you describe an example but don’t make it clear how our understanding of evolution relates to that example, you will earn no points. These examples must be in your own words – do not copy and paste from your sources; this is academic misconduct/plagiarism and will be treated as such!

Make sure to cite the sources that you use. For example, if your topic was “Finding Useful Natural Products”, one of the examples mentioned in the report involved the Pacific Yew tree. So your paragraph might be something like this:

Finding useful natural products In the 1960s the Pacific yew was discovered to contain a substance that was useful in treating certain cancers. Sadly, the tree needed to be destroyed in order to produce enough taxol to treat one patient. This destructive harvesting threatened the existence of the Pacific yew.

Luckily, by furthering our understanding of the evolutionary relationships within the yew family we discovered that a close relative of the Pacific yew, the European yew, contained a similar compound in its leaves, which allowed for easier extractions and harvests, and did not destroy the individual.

Thanks to our understanding of evolutionary biology we were able to more readily produce taxol which has resulted in countless lives saved. Citation: “Drug Discovery”. Understanding Evolution. UC Berkeley. Web. 02 Feb. 2016. (provide link if source cannot be easily found)

Note that because it has been provided as a sample answer, you cannot use the Pacific yew as one of your examples in your paper!

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