Connecting the foundational theory of modern biology to California’s Central Valley

A collection of resources for classroom teachers and students


The Fresno Bee approached me a little over a month ago with the idea of doing an article about my Galapagos experiences.

The article itself is a pastiche of quotes either collected by the reporter, Ron Orozco, or edited from observations that they asked me to submit. There were some formatting problems with the Bee article that were corrected on-line, but the paper has more still shots from video taken by yours truly. Overall, I was happy with the article.

When you read the article, please notice that I use this forum to talk about the way science educators like myself want to connect the science of the exotic (such as the Galapagos) with 'our own backyard' here in the Central Valley.


Hi, my name
is Scott Hatfield. I'm a science teacher employed by the Fresno Unified School District, and for the last ten years I've been teaching Biology and working as a local activist for science education. In July, I will be taking coursework in the Geology and Biology of the Galapagos Islands. The biological equivalent of a pilgrimage, I am hoping that what I see and experience will make me a more effective instructor in Biology, particularly as regarding evolution and natural selection.

I don't intend to stop there, however. I want to be able to document my voyage of discovery and bring the experience into the classroom----not just my own future classes, but to the Central Valley as a whole.


Evolution isn't something that's confined
to exotic locations!

Isolating mechanisms, changing environments, patterns of selection and diversification are going on throughout the world, including the Central Valley. I want to bring an awareness of what's happening right here to my students, so that they can see evolution at work in their parks, their orchards, their forests and even their urban settings.

What , for example, could possibly be more motivating to students that to learn that real-life examples of natural selection in action are being studied just a few miles away from where I teach, in Millerton Lake?

Photo: Katie Peichel, Pam Colosimo, and David Kingsley (HHMI and Stanford University)

Outstanding research by David Kingsley and his associates has documented how genetic changes in stickleback fish in different environments have led to recent speciation events in populations that became isolated when global sea levels fell during the last Ice Age. Placed in refugia that lacked the predators experienced by marine populations, the pressures to maintain the dorsal spines that give these fish their name was relaxed, and the energetic costs of maintaining these spines asserted themselves.

That's the sort of connection I want to help foster, but to make that connection especially vivid my partners and I will need to relate our surroundings to the familiar example of the Galapagos, the "workshop of Nature" found in our textbooks. Doing that means creating specific content, hopefully vivid and memorable, that brings the Galapagos to the Valley---so that we can then discover the connection, in effect Finding OUR Galapagos.

That, at least, is our vision, of which the July trip is simply the beginning. But, I have to confess, I am going to need some help. The expenses associated with this venture go well beyond what most individuals, including public school teachers, can easily meet out of pocket. To do this thing right, with the highest quality, is going to require additional support.

I am therefore asking people to contribute by clicking on the PayPal button on the upper-left hand sidebar of the blog. This will allow you to make a donation to this effort. No contribution is too small to assist my colleagues and I, and you can believe me when I say that it will be well-spent, bringing high-quality science education to biology students in the Central Valley.

Thank you, in advance,
for helping out as you are able.

Thank you, in advance, for helping out as you are able.