The Paleontological Research Institution and its Museum of the Earth, as institutions of science and education, embrace the theory of evolution, which is the unifying concept of all biological sciences. While there remains ongoing lively debate about the processes and mechanisms of evolutionary change — that is, how evolution occurs — essentially all qualified scientists fully endorse the idea that all organisms on earth share a common ancestry and that life’s unfolding has encompassed billions of years of time. Evolution is one of the cornerstones of modern science, and is therefore one of the key elements of our institutional mission.

The evolution of life is a central unifying principle of modern science, and it is integrally connected to much of our understanding of how Earth systems work and evolve. PRI’s world-class collections of fossils help tell the story of the evolution of the Earth, and our programming helps educators, students, and the public understand what evolution is and how scientists study it.

Through PRI’s Evolution Project, evolution is interwoven through numerous programs, exhibits, and resources. Look over our list below to see what fits your particular interests or needs.

Evolution in the Classroom

Teacher workshops

PRI will tailor workshops will help you teach evolution more knowledgeably and confidently. Workshops can include evolution and creationism, the fossil record, natural selection, or other topics. For information contact our Director of Teacher Programs at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Fossil Finders

Fossil Finders is an innovative NSF-supported project in collaboration with the Department of Education at Cornell University. Learn more about the project here and at the official project website

Apply now for a position for the 2009 Fossil Finders week-long workshop and two year partnership! Go to Fossil Finders brochure (PDF).

Teacher-Friendly Guide to Evolution using Bivalves and Bivalveevolution teacher resource kit:

This new resource will be available in fall 2010, as a product of an NSF-funded projects on bivalve (clam) evolution. To learn more about the science behind the project, go to

Evolution of predators and their prey teacher workshop & classroom program

PRI uses research of staff and colleagues as the basis for developing new teacher development and classroom activities. Check back for more information on this project is involve students in use of fossil conch shells to study past predation on snails.

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Evolution in Museums

Exhibit at PRI and Cornell University: Darwin: After The Origin

In celebration of Darwin Days 2009, we created an exhibit at the Museum of the Earth which displayed from February 2nd to June 11th, 2009. You can view an online version of the exhibit here. A complementary exhibit was held at the Kroch Library at Cornell University. See also the published companion book by Sheila Dean, which is available at Publications.

Docent Training

Soon after the Museum of the Earth opened in 2003, our docents asked for training on how to talk about evolution and to react to creationism. This guide and associated training received substantial national press for its utility at other informal education venues. You can download the Guide here (PDF). You can also download an accompanying PowerPoint presentation here.

History of Life course for docents

At least once a year we host a 6-session course on the history of life for our docents but free to the general public. Contact the Volunteer Coordinator (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 607-273-6260 x221) for information about the next course.

Evolution exhibits in the Museum of the Earth

The Museum of the Earth tells the story of the evolution of life throughout Earth history, using fossil examples from PRI collections. One area of the Museum is dedicated to evidence for evolution and the processes by which evolution occurs. Information about admission to the Museum is available on our Hours and Admission webpage.

Evolution on the Half Shell traveling exhibit:

This exhibit will focus on how scientists can reconstruct evolutionary relationships, using beautiful and fascinating bivalves as a case study. It is part of the outreach of the NSF Assembling the Tree of Life project on bivalves. The exhibit will be on display in the Museum of the Earth in fall 2010 and travel throughout the country after that. If you are interested in renting the exhibit, please contact our Exhibitions Manager at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 607-273-6623 x124.

Maize evolution traveling exhibit

This NSF-funded exhibit will highlight the evolution of corn, in collaboration with the maize genetics group at Cornell University. The exhibit will be designed for installation in small venues and will travel from spring 2011. If you are interested in renting the exhibit, please contact our Exhibitions Manager at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 607-273-6623 x124..

Speciation in insects temporary exhibit

A new rotating exhibit will be constructed in collaboration with Richard Harrison’s NSF-funded research group on insect speciation. The exhibit will highlight Harrison’s work while helping the public to understand how new species arise.

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Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design

Address on Intelligent Design by Cornell President Rawlings

In October 2005, in the wake of the Dover, PA trial on teaching intelligent design in schools, interim Cornell President Hunter Rawlings spoke about religious challenges to teaching evolution in his State of the University address. Click here to read the transcript.

Cornell/PRI Statement on Dover trial decision

The day after Judge Jones’ decision to bar teaching of Intelligent Design from PA school science classes, PRI and Cornell released a joint statement, which can be accessed here.

Evolution and creationism in the news

There was substantial news on the Dover Trial and decisions by the Kansas Board of Education. Click here for a chronological record of some of the most prominent articles.

PRI encouraged its members in Texas to send a letter to their School Board representative to combat changes in the science education standards. Read a copy of a suggested letter to the board here.

The PRI docent training on evolution received national media attention and reaction from creationists. Read about it here.

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PRI Evolution Publications

Evolution and Creationism: A very short guide by PRI Director Warren Allmon

An outstanding summary of evolution and creationism is presented in this booklet, recently updated and expanded. You can obtain a copy at the Museum of the Earth store or order it online through PRI Publications.

Charles Darwin: After The Origin by Sheila Ann Dean

A thoughtful and insightful review of the 22 years in Darwin’s life, in some respects his most productive years, that followed publication of the Origin of Species. Order it online through PRI Publications.

For the Rock Record : Geologists on Intelligent Design, eds. Jill Schneiderman and PRI Director Warren Allmon

Leading figures from the geological community with a wide range of viewpoints refute Intelligent Design arguments through references to the geological sciences. Published by the University of California Press.

Other Resources

Staff research and outreach

A number of PRI staff conduct original research and teach post-secondary courses on evolution. See our Research section.

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