Evolution Megalab launches

Today is the big launch day for one of my projects, the Evolution Megalab.

There’s an OU press release:

Snails, often the unloved blight of gardeners, are being put under the microscope with a new public science project being launched today (Monday 30 March) by The Open University. The Evolution MegaLab is a mass public research programme which is investigating how ordinary banded snails – found in back gardens, river banks and parks – have evolved over the last 40 years, by comparing data supplied by members of the public with a database of more than 8,000 historical records.

And a feature on Platform, the OU’s social site, including some videos featuring hot snail hunting action:

And some minor news outlets have picked up the story, including BBC News online, the Today programme, and some more substantial and trustworthy sources like John Naughton’s blog.

There’s been a lot of hard work gone in behind the scenes – mostly from other people, not me, I hasten to add – and the big credit should go to Richard Greenwood, our ace programmer, who even came in last night (i.e. Sunday) to fix a technical hitch which in crude terms amounted to persuading some people who had pulled the network plug out of the server that plugging it back in again would be a good idea.

One of the things I particularly like about this project is that you can get value out of it at lots of levels.  Young kids can have fun going out and spotting and counting up snails – the video above includes a 4-year-old.  At the other end of the scale, the clear phenotypic indications of the underlying genotype makes it a useful case study for population genetics in a third-level (i.e. third year undergraduate) course on Evolution.

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Author: dougclow

Academic in the Institute of Educational Technology, the Open University, UK. Interested in technology-enhanced learning and learning analytics.