UT Professor explains link between birds and dinosaurs

[title_box title=”UT Professor explains link between birds and dinosaurs”]

Colin D. Sumrall, assistant professor of Paleobiology in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, gave a lecture on Friday, Oct. 9, about the link between dinosaurs and modern-day birds.

Sumrall’s presentation, given to a healthy mix of both students and members of the community, expanded upon the scientific belief that modern-day birds have gradually evolved from dinosaurs over time. Throughout the presentation, Sumrall gave in-depth analyses of dinosaurs and tried to answer the question; how did dinosaurs evolve into birds?

“During the extinction, a meteor came down and wiped out the dinosaurs,” Sumrall said. “That’s what happened, right? Except..it didn’t.”

Sumrall explained that not only did the dinosaurs not all go extinct after a meteor hit the Earth roughly 65 million years ago, but that they gradually evolved into birds, and demonstrated this by showing various specimens and fossils whose characteristics increasingly started to resemble birds rather than dinosaurs.

A replica of Archaeopteryx lithographica. Photo by Daulton McCartney.

“The dinosaurs that immediately went extinct were the big ones,” explained Sumrall. “Not only did the smaller dinosaurs survive, but their physical characteristics evolved to help them adapt to their ever-changing environments; with the development of feathers, restructuring of skeletal makeup, most notably the pubis, and in some cases, elongated claws.”

To help explain the point of his lecture, Sumrall showed a picture of a featherless chicken.

“Doesn’t that look just like a dinosaur,” Sumrall asked. “It’s arms are a little different, but that’s just what chickens look like.”

But why do people still find it hard to believe that birds and dinosaurs are relatives?

“If a meteor hit the Earth and all mammals except for bats went extinct, what would future paleontologists think of our life,” Sumrall asked.

He then claimed that if life in 65 million years were to find a fossil of a whale or a sea lion, they would not think that it was a mammal, much like people in the present-day find it hard to believe that birds are related to dinosaurs.

Sumrall believes that people are just looking at it wrong. They tend to miss that birds are in the same category as dinosaurs in the same way that humans are in the same category as all mammals.

After the presentation, the audience asked Sumrall questions, ranging from 3D printing of fossils to falsified fossils found in China. However, the question that got the biggest response was about the impact that actually holding a fossil has on his research. Sumrall’s response highlighted that simply learning about evolution through texts is fine, but it becomes so much more clear when presented with an authentic fossil or specimen.

Sumrall concluded, “It’s really nice to be able to hold a specimen.”

Featured image by Daulton McCartney

Edited by Jessica Carr

Former Peace Corps volunteer shares experiences at first Pride Week

[title_box title=”Former Peace Corps volunteer shares experiences at first Pride Week”]

Following last week’s Diversity and Inclusion Week, the University of Tennessee’s Pride Center continued the diversity discussion with their first annual Pride Week.

The Pride Center, formerly known as the OUTreach Center, hosted its inaugural Pecha Kucha, or quick presentation of multiple speakers, on Monday, Oct. 5.

Four graduate students spoke about their areas of research in the LGBTQIA field, including Jeremy Haber, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay and current Peace Corps recruiter.

Haber said he always knew he wanted to join the organization and explore other cultures.

“I decided to apply one night, I got the interview and I instantly connected with the recruiter,” Haber said. “I never regretted it.”

Haber describes himself as an openly gay individual and said that the Peace Corps did a lot to protect volunteers from discrimination. Those who are openly gay are welcome to serve in whatever country they choose, but the Peace Corps will talk with those who have concerns and review specific cultural information, according to their official website.

“My placement officer mentioned that I chose Africa as my region to region go to, and he mentioned that there are a lot of really great countries they recommend for this community,” Haber said. “Then I knew from then on that if the Peace Corps spends that much time researching the different countries to make you feel safe, I wouldn’t have a problem.”

Haber did not speak Spanish when he left for Paraguay, but learned some through his three months of training and more during his two-year stay in the country. Despite these differences, he said the country was supportive of him and his sexuality.

“When they know you’re gay in a different country they confide in you,” Haber said. “If you’re someone from the outside they can share and connect with you right away.”

Haber said that this was especially true of the gay youth he met while working in the country who felt they could open up to him and his colleagues.

The Human Rights Campaign reports that 92 percent of LGBTQIA youth hear negative messages about their sexuality from sources like the internet, school and friends.

Junior Shannon Michel said the message of acceptance the speakers shared was important to discuss with others in order to stop negative opinions from spreading.

“I learned to be more open-minded and just come in to the community as someone willing to learn about it,” Michel said. “This can broaden peoples’ horizons and make them more aware of people outside of their comfort zone.”

Haber said he hoped people continue this dialogue after the Pecha Kucha event.

“I feel like there should just be more sharing,” Haber said. “You learn so much from these people and their passions, and I feel like we should be telling our stories more.”

More information about the Pride Center can be found on their official website.

Featured image by Taylor Owens

Edited by Jessica Carr

UT faculty talk plans to improve tree health on campus

On Friday, Sharon Jean-Philippe, assistant professor of urban forestry, and Sam Adams, UT’s arborist, discussed a new plan to improve the health of trees on campus at the semester’s first Science Forum.

Trees provide wildlife and habitat benefits. They can alter the climate, guide wind, intercept precipitation and heat while also helping cool the environment. Trees can also attenuate sound, help evaporation and filter out urban waste.

However, there are a few issues with the trees at UT.

“Trees in urban areas are faced with a lot of challenges,” Jean-Philippe said.

There are 8,800 trees on UT’s campus, including those on the Agriculture campus and Sorority Village, and less than 1 percent of those trees are in “excellent” condition.

They are planted in the wrong spots and can suffer from “death by mechanical input.” The amount of heat loading from vehicles and buildings can also affect trees in a negative way.

Adams discussed the changes that are taking place to help keep the trees around campus healthy. The primary job is monitoring pests and completing tree risk assessments that test UT trees for failure potential.

“We’re taking a look at contractor plans, making sure numbers are right,” he said. “We’re going to be standing on that and getting a fair amount of planning done.”

The campus landscape plan consists of new zones for different types of trees, but when it comes to choices, Tennessee native trees are higher on the list.

Jean-Philippe and Adams also discussed a “Campus Tree App” that will allow students and anyone near or on campus to view public data about the trees. The app will also provide tree tours around campus, showing “champion trees” and facts about them.

You can access more information about the trees and upcoming forums by visiting UT Science Forum’s site.

Featured Image by Ryan McGill

Edited by Courtney Anderson and Hannah Hunnicutt


McClung Museum hosts historically inspired artists

A re-imagining of Charles Willson Peale's  by BJ Alumbaugh.
A re-imagining of Charles Willson Peale’s by BJ Alumbaugh.

On Monday Feb. 2, McClung Museum hosted a printmaking artist panel for the “Drawn from the McClung Museum” exhibit.  This exhibit is where print makers chose museum artifacts to inspire their art and will be up until May 24.

The panelists included Professor Tanja Softić, Professor Beauvais Lyons, Associate Professor Koichi Yamamoto and Associate Professor Althea Murphy-Price. Professor Softić teaches art at the University of Richmond while the other professors are at the University of Tennessee. The hosts for the events were Coordinator of Academic Programs, Lindsey Waugh and the Curator and Head of Web and Media Catherine Shteynberg.

Professor Softić used a fossil of a flower-like animal. This fossil was closed so she said that she found juxtaposition by putting a more open artwork on top of this fist like representation.Professor Yamamoto used the re-creation of an artifact that represented a lost loved one. He said that the impact and symmetry were what led him to use it.

Professor Price chose the hair or mourning necklace as the inspiration for her work as hair has always influenced her interest, and this hair was used to memorialize a person. Professor Lyons talked on how he used his love of pottery and hybridity and was inspired by an Italian goat man clay pottery and made it into a print work.

The panelist as they talk on their artwork.
The panelists talked about their artwork.

Lindsey Waugh said that “these are living objects” and that this is a way to add more meaning and life to these objects. Both Professor Softić and Professor Lyons said that museums are “public repositories,” and they have used museums for inspiration before.

This exhibit is being held during the Southern Graphic Council International Conference which will be held in Knoxville in March. The panelist and host said they are excited to see how the McClung Museum inspired art will inspire others.

Edited by Maggie Jones


Titans VS Eagles preview

For this week’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tennessee Titans, we’ll look at the three matchups that will determine who will win the game.

Quarterbacks: For once is looks like Titans QB Z. Mettenberger won’t be the worst quarterback in the game. That honor will go to Mark Sanchez, who is coming off one of his worst games as a professional, and trust me he has a lot. At one point against last week’s opponent the Eagles were down 53-13 and Sanchez had thrown two picks. Z. Mettenberger on the other hand has performed fairly well having a 62% completion percentage, while limiting his turnovers with only four interceptions on the season.

Advantage: Even though Z. Mettenberger is only making his fourth career start and it’s an away game, you know he won’t butt fumble, so…… Titans get the edge here

Eagles D-Line VS Titans O-Line: Connor Barwin is a beast, on a hot streak with 8 ½ sacks in his last three home games with already 10.5 sacks and 37 tackles this season for the Eagles. He leads a defense which is ranked second in the NFL with 33 sacks.  The Titans O-line meanwhile didn’t give up a sack last game.

Advantage: The Eagles are just a cut above the Titans in this matchup.

Titan’s CBs vs Eagles WRs: The Eagles have a good receiving core with Jordan Matthews (558 yards on 44 catches) and Jeremy Maclin (921 yards on 57 catches). The Titans with Jason McCourty will have their hands full. Mccourty is coming off a game where he limited Antonio Brown to under 100 yards receiving, and he himself had an interception, that led to a touchdown.

Advantage: The Eagles have too many receiving threats on the outside, that’ll make it tough to cover everyone, and the Eagles should get a W in this category.

Prediction: Even with the Titans best receiving threat Delanie Walker coming back for this game, I’m still going with the Eagles to win by double digits. Trust me I thought about this for a long time, it’s awfully hard to choose Mark Sanchez to win any game, but it’s not every game you face the lowly Titans.

Edited by Will Lomas

Opinion: It isn’t easy being Justin Worley

Now that everyone is aboard the Josh Dobbs bandwagon, and Justin Worley’s career has come down to coaching on the sidelines during his final year of NCAA eligibility, it’s time to evaluate his career as a Volunteer.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to Worley, who’s overcome so many struggles in his four years here that his career started as quickly as it finished. To Worley’s credit he never complained, he never complained when he had three new head coaches in his four years, and each coach made him learn a new offensive system on the fly. He never complained when he was the backup to future NFL quarterback Tyler Bray, and he never complained when he was given arguably one of the worst offensive lines in college football.

Worley’s senior year picked up right where his junior year left off, with an injury. What makes this year different are the results. Last year after Worley went down, and Dobbs wasn’t nearly the quarterback he is this year. Last year against Mizzou, you might remember with Worley out Dobbs started and well the results speak for themselves, a 31-3 butt whooping. Now everything is different Dobbs is looking like the next Heisman front runner, the running game has improved, the offensive line has performed better with a mobile quarterback and most importantly it looks like Butch Jones has the team going bowling.

I can’t help feel a little sorry for Worley, I know most Tennessee fans will say good riddance, but picture this Worley starts four years, he had sustainability in his playbook and a head coach, and his offensive line was better, too pie in the sky? Cheer up Worley maybe your career is in coaching, and it’s not filled with so many headaches, after-all it looks like he’s well on his way to that profession, with Butch Jones saying ‘“now he goes from player Worley to Coach Worley.”

Edited by Will Lomas