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On Sunday, February 12 2017 St. Mary’s University celebrated the birthday of Charles Darwin, one of the most influential naturalists in human history, with a special edition of their Inspiring Conversations Series held at the Calgary Zoo. The event featured captivating discussions by renowned naturalist Mr. Brian Keating, host of Going Wild and regular guest on the popular CBC program Homestrech and St. Mary’s own Dr. Scott Lovell, who regaled the over 150 guests in attendance with his Ph.D research on Evolutionary Ecology, examining the speciation in birds.

“Overall, I thought the event was great,” said Dr. Lovell. “The talks were interesting and informative, the audience had lots of great questions and it was nice to see so many students from St. Mary’s and elsewhere come along with the general public.”

Darwin’s enduring legacy and his thirst for knowledge are reasons Dr. Lovell believes the naturalist is still such a fascinating figure.

“Darwin remains a compelling figure 129 years after his death, because the ideas that he come up with were so revolutionary and iconoclastic, that I think the public in general admire people like that,” explained Dr. Lovell. “His ideas have been tested over and over, and every time the results support Darwin’s way of thinking. Darwin’s desire to know ‘why’ something in nature worked the way it did, is a trait most of us would like to have.”

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For Dr. Lovell the Darwin Day event was a unique opportunity to share his work with a broader audience, one – as evidenced by the various questions after his presentation – was clearly engaged with the subject matter.

“Usually I present my research to other ornithologists or birdwatchers, so having the opportunity to share with a more general audience what I do and what I have discovered was both challenging and rewarding,” said Dr. Lovell. “Challenging in terms of, making complex or abstract ideas, understandable for someone that is not a scientist or knows very little about birds. Rewarding in that, after my presentation, the audience asked some very good questions that let me know my message got across and they were thinking about what I had talked about.”

After both presentations concluded guests were treated to a short guided tour through select parts of the Calgary Zoo where Brian Keating offered an inside glimpse into the importance of conservation efforts and the work being done by the Calgary Zoo at home, and abroad, in ensuring that the wonders of nature are around for many generations to enjoy.

Dr. Scott Lovell was a guest on CBC’s Homestretch Program on February 9, 2017 promoting St. Mary’s Darwin Day event at the Calgary Zoo.