ALLELE Series to Host Showing of ‘Speaking Evolution’

  • October 26th, 2017
Dr. Leslie Rissler

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Alabama Lectures on Life’s Evolution, or ALLELE, series will host a showing of “Discovering Alabama’s” newest production, “Speaking Evolution,” Thursday, Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m. in room 2011 of North Lawn Hall.

The program explores how the science of evolution is communicated to the general public. Narrated by NPR national correspondent Debbie Elliot, “Speaking Evolution” asks several prominent scientists about how the teaching of evolution could be changed in order to better explain it.

It all started with a frog.

“I was in the woods with a bunch of herpetologists, and one of them caught a frog to use for one of the shots,” said Roger Reid, the production coordinator of “Discovering Alabama.” “He put the frog down in the pond, and the frog just disappeared. It was there; we just couldn’t see it. The cameraman and I commented on that, and one of the herpetologists said, ‘Well, evolution gave this frog an incredible ability to camouflage itself.’ And that was the genesis of the whole thing.”

Since the sighting of the frog almost 20 years ago, Reid has collaborated with Dr. Leslie Rissler, a former UA biology professor and now program director at the National Science Foundation, on interviewing multiple scientists about how to communicate the concept of evolution to the public.

When the ALLELE lecture series began at the University, the pair decided to start interviewing some of their speakers on the subject.

“We’d be talking about coastal Alabama or frogs, whatever we’re doing the show on,” Reid said, “and I would use that opportunity to talk about evolution.”

The two began interviewing ALLELE speakers in 2011, adding to their already-growing collection of interviews, starting in 2005. The list of prominent scientists is extensive, including paleoanthropologist and Time 100 member Dr. Lee Berger, New York Times writer Carl Zimmer and paleontologist Dr. David Jablonski.

The program will premiere Monday, Nov. 6, at 8 p.m. on Alabama Public Television, airing again Sunday, Nov. 19, at noon.

The on-campus program will begin with the one-hour screening, and Rissler and other members of the ALLELE group will be available for questions following the program. The showing is free and open to the public.

The ALLELE lecture series and “Discovering Alabama,” a production of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, are part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships and Goldwater Scholarships.

Learn more about the series at, or visit ALLELE’s Facebook page for more information.


Roger Reid,


Stephanie Kirkland, College of Arts and Sciences, 205-348-8663,

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.