James Costa, professor of biology and director of the Highlands Biological Station, was recently elected a trustee of the Charles Darwin Trust, an organization based in London, England, that is dedicated to teaching, learning and research relating to Darwin and evolutionary biology.
“I’m really excited about it,” Costa said. “The trust is the British equivalent of an educational nonprofit. It was founded – and is still largely run – by several Darwin descendants, and the board also consists of educators, scientists and historians of science from the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Costa has written a book about a research contemporary of Darwin who also studied nature and formed theories about the origins of species.
“I understand I was nominated (for the trusteeship) owing to my recent work on Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection with Darwin,” Costa said. “They are looking to develop an educational initiative pertaining to Wallace and Darwin – owing to my ongoing work and forthcoming book on Darwin’s experiments, which has a pedagogical angle. That project dovetails with an ongoing initiative of the trust called ‘Darwin Inspired Learning.’ One of the trustees, Michael Reiss, co-edited a 2015 volume of that title, to which I contributed a chapter.”
Costa also is working with other colleagues on a project based at Down House, Darwin’s home south of London, now owned by English Heritage. “That project aims to present and interpret a dozen or more of Darwin’s more famous experiments for the visiting public at Down House, explaining their significance from his decades-long research on the origin of species,” Costa said.
The project also provides teaching resources showing how Darwin’s experiments can be easily replicated at home or school and used in the biology curriculum. “One of the collaborators on that project is Randal Keynes, great-great grandson of Darwin, who nominated me as a trustee,” Costa said.