Evolution in May: writers, books and social networking

Australian celebrations of evolution and Darwin continue in May with exhibitions, books, events and ABC Online’s Gene Pool. And this month we have tickets to give away for the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

This month the focus of activity is in Sydney.

  • The Sydney Writers Festival has a stream of evolution related sessions which I’ve listed below. They’ll be capturing the texture of Darwin’s work through poetry, living with wolves and much more.
  • A first edition of ‘Origin’ is on display at the State Library of New South Wales in their Charles Darwin Down Under, 1836 exhibition.
  • And the Australian National Maritime Museum continues its major exhibition, Charles Darwin – voyages and ideas that shook the world, until 23 August.

But it’s not all in Sydney. Explore evolution at the Australian Science Festival in Canberra and at exhibitions in Melbourne, Darwin, and Brisbane.

Or stay at home and read one of thirteen Australian books relating to evolution. There’s a full list below.

Meanwhile we’re developing our plans for the second phase of the Evolution Festival. Over the coming months there’ll be a series of announcements leading up to a second peak of activity in November in association with the anniversary of the publication of Origin.

One of the most exciting new projects is Gene Pool, a new social networking site, launched by the ABC last week. You’re invited to contribute poems, stories, music and more. Selected entries will be broadcast and exhibited later this year.

All the events mentioned here are on the website www.evolutionaustralia.org.au.

Please feel free to pass on this information to friends and colleagues. And please let us know if there are events that we haven’t mentioned. We ask everyone running Darwin-related events to register them at www.evolutionaustralia.org.au so we can include you in future bulletins and promotions.

Please also include us in your media lists. We will be telling journalists about newsworthy Darwinian activities.

And the free tickets? We have two pairs of tickets to The Lives of Animals at 1 pm on Friday 22 May. Details below.

Kind regards,


Niall Byrne for Phil Batterham and the Evolution Festival

0417 131 977



In this bulletin:


Charles Darwin in Australia – State Library of NSW, Sydney 5 May

Evolution at the Sydney Writers Festival

The antipodean laboratory – seminar at the University of Sydney, 8 May

Social Networking: Gene Pool – much more than ‘survival of the fittest’, sex and scientists

New books on Darwin and Evolution


Free tickets


Charles Darwin in Australia – State Library of NSW, Sydney 5 May

Frank Nicholas and Jan Nicholas, who wrote the book Charles Darwin in Australia, will draw on the State Library of NSW’s rich collection of paintings and manuscripts to tell the story of Darwin’s visit to Australian in early 1836. They speak at the State Library of NSW on Thursday 5 May.

The talk is held in association with the free exhibition Charles Darwin Down Under, 1836 at the State Library of New South Wales, details below.

Evolution at the Sydney Writers Festival

The Sydney Writers Festival is celebrating evolution and Darwin in May with a series of events from 18 to 24 May 2009:

  • Delve into the lives of Charles Darwin, William Darwin Fox and Griffith Taylor through the eyes of their most recent biographers.
  • Immerse yourself in a debate with Tom Frame and Iain McCalman about how evolutionary theory has permeated modern life.
  • Listen to poems that capture the textures of Charles Darwin’s work and dreams with Emily Ballou.
  • Explore the evolution not just of flora and fauna, but of friendship and belief with Roger McDonald, author of Mr Darwin’s Shooter.
  • Discover how thought and experience changes the circuitry of the human brain with a series of sessions with Norman Doidge.
  • What does animal nature bring to humanity? Be intrigued by Mark Rowland’s experience living with a wolf for 11 years and authors Steve Conte and Eva Hornung’s writings about the nature of animals.
  • In a time of ecological crisis, our imagination of the natural world becomes critical. Birder Devin Johnston considers imagining avian life through poetry.

Details on all these events are available online at www.swf.org.au.

The antipodean laboratory – seminar at the University of Sydney, 8 May

The University of Sydney is hosting a series of seminars on the theme ‘The antipodean laboratory: humanity, sovereignty and environment in southern oceans and lands, 1700-2009’.

The second session, titled ‘The impact of the antipodes on ecological thought: landscape, evolution, and sustainability’ is on Friday 8 May, from 1-5pm, at the University of Sydney.

From the eighteenth century, the discovery by Europeans in the southern hemisphere of new landforms, species and indigenous cultures prompted intense and continuing debate about natural economies (later called ecologies) on both sides of the world.

These issues will be explored in papers on comparative art, aesthetics and landscape; on the rise of Darwinian evolutionary ecological theory; and on European scientific and Indigenous Aboriginal conceptions of nature and environmental management.

Social Networking: Gene Pool – much more than ‘survival of the fittest’, sex and scientists

You are invited to participate in the new social networking site, Gene Pool, which was launched last week.

Contribute a poem, story, photo or tribute, or perhaps a home movie or mini-documentary, a piece of music or field recording. Use other people’s contributions to create your own recombinations, mash-ups, mutations, mixes and musings – or slice, dice and remix gems from the ABC archives – Gene Pool is full of possibilities.

Gene Pool takes evolution way beyond survival of the fittest, sex and the ‘selfish gene’, or scientists in lab coats. Cultures and ideas mutate too.

All work submitted to the Gene Pool by 2 October 2009 will be considered by ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind and The Night Air program makers for special Gene Pool broadcasts. Audiovisual entries will go in the running to be publicly exhibited in Melbourne in November 2009, as part of ANAT’s Super Human: Revolution of the Species suite of events.

Gene Pool is a joint initiative of Pool, ABC Radio National, Australian Network of Art and Technology (ANAT), RMIT and Evolution: The Festival.

Check it out at http://pool.org.au/genepool.

New books on Darwin and Evolution

The focus on Darwin’s birthday and the anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species has inspired Australian books on a wide range of topics. Here are just some of them:

Evolution in the Antipodes: Charles Darwin and Australia
Tom Frame, UNSW Press, 2009

It Takes a Genome: how a clash between our genes and modern life is making us sick
Greg Gibson, Penguin, Australia 2009

Darwin’s Armada: how four voyages to Australasia won the battle for evolution and changed the world
Iain McCalman, Penguin Australia, 2009

In the wake of the Beagle: science in the Southern Ocean from the Age of Darwin
Iain McCalman & Nigel Erskine (eds), University of New South Wales Press, 2009

Boom and Bust: bird stories for a dry country
Libby Robin, Robert Heinsohn & Leo Joseph (eds),  CSIRO publishing, 2009

Charles Darwin: an Australian selection
National Museum of Australia Press, Canberra, 2008

Charles Darwin in Australia Second edition
Frank Nicholas & Jan Nicholas, Cambridge University Press, 2008.

The Hobbit trap: money, fame, science and the discovery of a ‘new species’
Maciej Henneberg & John Schofield, Wakefield Press, Kent Town, South Australia, 2008

Modern questions, modern answers: the Jesus enigma, Christian origins, evolution, sexuality, contemplation: a primer for neo-Catholic unity
Peter Lock, Queen of the South Press, Hindmarsh, South Australia, 2008

Lamarck’s evolution: two centuries of genius and jealousy
Ross Honeywill, Pier 9, Millers Point, NSW, 2008

Memory: a very short introduction
Jonathan Foster, Oxford University Press, 2008

Promise of the wolves
Dorothy Hearst, Simon and Schuster Australia, 2008

Social inequality in Australia: discourses, realities and futures
Daphne Habibis & Maggie Walter, Oxford University Press, 2008


  • Charles Darwin Down Under, 1836 is on at the State Library of New South Wales. The exhibition includes a first edition copy of On the Origin of Species and a rich collection of original artworks, diaries and artefact, until 26 July. Frank and Jan Nicholas talk about the exhibition and their book Charles Darwin in Australia on 5 May, details above.
  • One of the 1250 copies of the first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is among many rare, beautiful and significant books on display at the Mirror of the World exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.
  • Charles Darwin – voyages and ideas that shook the world is at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney, until 23 August. See how Darwin lived aboard the Beagle and examine some of the specimens he collected on the voyage which set him on the path to his theory of evolution.
  • Darwin to DNA at the Melbourne Museum explores the discovery of evolution by Darwin and his contemporary Alfred Russel Wallace including specimens they collected. It then takes you further into the genetic mechanisms of DNA, and how we can use DNA to examine questions about evolution.
  • The quirky side of Charles Darwin is on display at the Melbourne Museum in the exhibition Five things about Charles Darwin, on until 31 May.
  • Darwin himself was wary of the impact he knew his theory of evolution would have. The events and influences shaping Darwin are explored in Charles Darwin: the reluctant revolutionary at the Queensland Museum, Brisbane, until 31 December.
  • Crocodiles and their kind are an evolutionary success story – they have been around for the past 200 million years. See one of the largest crocodilians that ever existed in Supercrocodilians – Darwin’s ultimate survival story at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin, until 29 November.

Free tickets

We have two pairs of tickets to give away to The Lives of Animals on Friday 22 May at 1 pm, donated by the Sydney Writers Festival.

Mark Rowlands lived with a wolf for 11 years; Eva Hornung’s novel traces the life of a child raised by a pack of dogs; Steve Conte’s novel considers the suffering of animals during wartime. They discuss what our animal nature bring to our humanity.

Date: Friday 22 May 2009

Time:  1.00pm – 2.00pm

Location: Heritage Pier, Main Stage.

The first two people to email me with the subject line: Lives of Animals will each win one pair of tickets.


Read more on these and other events at http://evolutionaustralia.org.au

The Festival team acknowledge the support of our major sponsors, the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, the State Government of Victoria and the University of Melbourne.  We are also supported by Museum Victoria, New Scientist, the City of Melbourne and Cosmos.


Niall Byrne

Science in Public

ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977