Search for the Holy Grail: Investigating the Evolution of Birds using DNA
April 19 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pmFree
“Search for the Holy Grail: Investigating the Evolution of Birds using DNA”, presented by John Comstock. 7 p.m. April 19, at the Dungeness River Audubon Center, 2151 W. Hendrickson Rd.
“They just want to sell more field guides,” is the usual comment you hear about frequent changes in bird taxonomy. But there is a lot more involved in the systematics of birds than just “lumping and splitting.” Behind it all is one of the greatest scientific advances of the last 100 years — using DNA to determine evolutionary relationships between different genera, families, and orders, not just of birds, but of all living things.
John Comstock had a career in biomedical engineering, but left it behind to get his master’s degree working with Charles G. Sibley at his lab at San Francisco State University. Sibley, one of the most colorful and controversial characters of 20th-century ornithology, devised methods to sort out avian phylogeny using DNA-DNA hybridization, hoping to determine how birds evolved using similarities and differences in their genetic makeup. John Comstock had a front row seat to this extraordinary drama, working with Sibley at the height of his influential studies. Come hear John’s stories about how molecular methods are used to search for this ornithological Holy Grail.