Marshall hosts population expert
April 23, 2010 ·
Last night the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research welcomed a speaker from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Rob DeSalle is a population expert at the American Museum of Natural History. He spoke to a crowd of people gathered last night
inside the Marshall University Foundation Hall. His topic was the tree of life.
DeSalle studies the way different organisms interact
with each other and he says a tree is the best way to describe that interaction.
“It is a representation of how all of the
organisms on this planet are related to each other and not only is the shape of
the tree important, but what happens as the tree grows is also important and
how the branches of the tree are related to each other becomes important,”
DeSalle says he can use the tree of life to
predict how organisms will coexist. This also helps scientists understand how bacteria
and viruses develop, and figure out how life as we know it
began and why certain things happened the way they did throughout time.
“The thing that I would hope people come away with
from the presentation is the complexity of life on this planet. Even the
simplest of organisms like bacteria have evolved as much as we have.
tree we can also predict the function of things more precisely and this has far
reaching implications not only in biology, but in things like medicine and our
understanding of the nervous system and other very important practical things,”
DeSalle says he chose to study the tree of life because
it feeds his curiosity of life.
“As a young scientist I was thrilled by the idea
of finding a new species, finding a new population of something or finding a
new group of organisms. The sense of discovery is really important and once you
discover something new you really need to figure out where it came from,”
DeSalle also works on creating children’s
magazines and educational materials about the tree of life concept.