13. Description of the core message of your event and key topics to be covered (c.100 words):
You will hear panel members outline their thoughts on the question, “Are we still evolving?” from the perspective of their own expertise. Following this, there will be discussions between the panel members based on the questions that you have submitted beforehand. The panel will reflect on how they evaluate the question, i.e. what do we mean by “we” and “still”? For example, matters relating to on-going evolutionary change in human populations will be considered, and whether current generations are better or less ‘well adapted’ than previous generations. Actual research results of the panel members will provide exemplars that panel members will use to illustrate their perspectives. Selection pressures present in our current industrialised society are different from those in the past and also different from those in other, less industrialised, regions. Changes in demography, e.g. the age at which mothers have children and how long we live have also affected selection pressures and our genetic make-up. In addition, medical research has allowed medical interventions that have subsequent effects on changes in selection in human populations.
The panel members are excellent speakers who will highlight their novel research findings in human evolution in the past and in the 21st century. Dr Virpi Lummaa (Sheffield University) is one of the panel members highlighting her recent findings measuring changes in evolutionary forces in Finland and Gambia as a result of demographic change. Prof Tom Kirkwood (Newcastle University) is an expert on ageing and will be able to speak to the consequences of this for human evolution. The panel Chair Prof Daniel Nettle (Newcastle University) has written various books on human evolution. The organisers (both of whom are themselves evolutionary biologists) will also invite engaging experts on gene-culture coevolution and selection for disease resistance, in order to bring multiple perspectives so that a lively discussion will ensue.
14. Does the event have particular local relevance?:
15. If so, please indicate what this is:
The organisers Dr Rickard (Durham University) and Dr Wolff (Newcastle University) represent collaboration between two northeast Universities. Newcastle University, as a Civic University, aims to engage with local people and the topic of human evolution in their environment is something that engages and interests the public.
The subject of the session also relates to Newcastle University Societal Challenge themes. In particular, ‘Changing Age’ highlights the social and economic impact of aging. As we will explore on our panel, particularly through the expertise of Prof Tom Kirkwood (Associate Dean for Ageing at the Newcastle University Institute for Ageing and Health), the fact that in some societies people are living longer, and having children at later ages can be expected to influence human evolutionary change. The Panel Chair is Prof Nettle of the Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University.