Evolutionary Geniuses

Congratulations to all the Macarthur genius grant winners announced today. Their ranks include two evolutionary biologists.

1. Beth Shapiro, at Penn State, studies ancient DNA to understand extinct critters like mammoths and dodos. I’ve embedded a lecture I saw her give over the summer below. [Update: Sorry, sorry–Penn State, not Penn!]

Another winner is Richard Prum from Yale, who I had fortuitously asked to come talk to my writing class this morning. I had my students interview him for a profile. Voila, instant news hook!

The poor students. They were overwhelmed by the torrent of work Prum described, from the sophisticated optical properties of bird feathers to the origin of birds among the dinosaurs to the deep unity of biology and aesthetics. I’ve embedded the Macarthur’s video of Prum from their 2009 Fellows site, where he talks a bit about his stuff.