Advanced biology students have been taking a truly hands-on approach to their evolution studies by way of the curriculum developed by instructor and alumna Ava Goodale ‘01. Goodale '01 and her students have been using the Trevor Zoo—a resource that is truly unique to Millbrook—to observe real-world animal conservation and endangered species.
“The process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life, and understanding how evolution connects with ecology and genetics is imperative to keeping species alive,” says Goodale ’01. “Three of the species that we are studying are currently at the Trevor Zoo, and this has allowed us to study evolution by observing not only the animals themselves but also how the zoo works to keep species from going extinct,” she says.
Students began their studies by reading the Beak of the Finch
by Jonathan Weiner and then went on to read case studies about different species including the red wolves, red pandas, and cichlids, all which live at the Trevor Zoo
After reading these studies, students then broke into different groups to apply what they had learned and created diagrams to illustrate similarities between the case studies, measured animal skeletons to determine which were of the same species, and made recommendations for which animals should breed to maintain genetic diversity.
“The coursework also touches on environmental stewardship
, which has been a core value at Millbrook since the inception of the school,” says Goodale. “Thinking about this in the context of our academic focus on curiosity, we also participated in discussions around why we value biodiversity, how humans are players in the process, and what our role as stewards of the environment should be in terms of animal conservation.”
Millbrook's natural resources are truly unmatched by any other independent school in the country, as the school's 800-acre campus, located just 90 miles from New York City, includes wetlands, a canopy walkway, and the Trevor Zoo. "The Trevor Zoo is a real-world example of the relevancy of the study of evolution, and it brings a truly unique element to our curriculum. We are fortunate to have the Trevor Zoo and our many other campus resources as extensions of our classrooms," says Goodale.
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