Discovery Talks

Early development, survival and reproductive success in humans

Dr Virpi Lummaa, Department of Zoology, Cambridge
Zoology Lecture Theatre
17 October 2002

Do the developmental and environmental conditions experienced by individuals early in their life matter in adulthood? Research carried out to examine long-term effects of birth size, early starvation or season of birth in both developing and current Western countries have revealed important downstream effects of early development on adulthood health and survival. The conditions experienced early in life may also influence the subsequent reproductive success of individuals, and the growth and survival of their offspring in the following generation.

What’s inevitable in evolution?

Prof. Simon Conway-Morris, Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge
Earth Sciences Lecture Theatre
31 October 2002

What happens when we re-run the tape of the history of life? The usual answer, echoing S.J. Gould’s question, is “Something completely different”. No humans, for example. Biology and the fossil record suggest the opposite to be the case: life not only has predictabilities, but also trends and – good heavens – even progress.

Time and landscape: archaeological work on Als, Denmark

Dr Marie Louise Sorensen, Department of Archaeology, Cambridge
Earth Sciences Lecture Theatre
14 November 2002

The Als project looks at long-term changes within the cultural landscape. The project covers the period from the first settled farmers to the Viking Age, and the hunter-gathering communities. It appears that there are specific periods in which landscape use changed, and so did the way in which the landscape was perceived.

Gaining Ground: the past decade of progress on the fish-tetrapod transition

Dr Jenny Clack, University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge
Zoology Lecture Theatre
28 November 2002

Fish live in water and swim with fins; animals with legs (tetrapods) walk on land. But how did evolution get from one to the other? Is it as simple as ‘one day a fish crawled from the swamp and turned into a tetrapod’? Discover how ideas about the ‘fish-tetrapod’ transition have themselves evolved based on new fossil material representing this crucial event in evolution. New transitional forms are being discovered almost every year which complicate the story and old specimens are being reinterpreted. This has provided a view of how the transition came about that has changed radically over the past ten years.

Meet the Museum’s Mammals

Dr Adrian Friday, University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge
Zoology Museum
12 December 2002

The University Museum of Zoology gives most of its ground floor to displays of mammals. This provides a very unbalanced view of the Animal Kingdom – think of the numbers of insect species, for example – but it does reflect the Museum’s distinguished historical collections of mammals and also the Museum’s origins in the study of anatomy rather than of natural history. Most people justifiably feel they know a bit about what it’s like to be a mammal, but there are some surprises in store when we ask how the different groups of mammals are related to one another.

Children’s Christmas lecture: Working with Dinosaurs

Dr David Norman, Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge
Babbage Lecture Theatre (next to Zoology Museum)
14 December 2002

Dinosaurs have been a subject of interest and fascination for many people since they were, quite literally, invented as a special group of fossil reptiles in 1842. The fascination has come to the forefront in recent years following the appearance of dramatic films such as Jurassic Park, and the BBC production Walking with Dinosaurs, both of which benefited from the development of computer software that is capable of producing incredibly life-like virtual images of entirely extinct creatures.

Exciting and fascinating though such films are it must be remembered that they are still fiction and firmly part of the entertainment industry. As a research scientist with an interest in dinosaurs, and one who works in Cambridge, Dave Norman will try to strip away some of the Jurassic Park-related hype and concentrate on the real science associated with dinosaurs. This is just as interesting and, Dr Norman hopes to prove, just as fascinating!

Last updated: 18 April 2009