Ashley Allen has been a counselor for the Discovery Hall Programs summer camps and residential high school class for many years and teaches high school in Oneonta, Alabama. However, he has a secret, but not so hidden talent.
Allen is recognized as one of the premier paleontologists in the state of Alabama. Naturally then, when Roger Reid of Discovering Alabama fame, wanted to develop a program on evolution and Alabama’s incredible fossil record, he contacted Allen.
Scientists are learning more about how organisms adapt to environments: were there slow gradual changes over time or do these adaptations come in spurts followed by periods of time with little change, time is the critical element. However, the concept of geologic time is a difficult one for folks to grasp. Students and adults can lose sight of the amazing role of time by getting caught up on the names of geologic eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages or in trying to remember what fossil organisms lived.
As Allen was thinking about the concept of deep time and how to convey geological history to his students in a way that would resonate with his students, he thought of football (this is Alabama after all). He felt the football field was something his students were familiar with and could be used to help grasp the concept of geologic time.
By the time Reid was filming that section of his program in 2016, Allen was spending his summer working with campers and students at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. That is how many students in DISL's residential summer marine science course for high school students came to be involved in "Speaking Evolution", an original special for Alabama Public Television (APT).
When Reid was ready to premiere his show, he wanted to share it with Allen and his colleagues in the Alabama Paleontological Society, and also with students at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. In June of 2017, Reid spent a day at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, chatting with our students about his career, experiences, and premiering his film. Reid also graciously donated several copies of his "Discovering Alabama Coastal Paradise" series (Coastal Education, Coastal History, and Coastal Ecology) to DISL's educational programs, along with a copy of his captivating geological mystery novel, "Time".
"Time" is set at Alabama’s Steven C. Minkin’s Paleozoic Footprint Site and also features Allen as the intrepid fossil expert.
Dr. Tina Miller-Way, Chair of Discovery Hall Programs, who invited Reid, said, “We enjoy creating these ‘out of the box’ opportunities for our students and hope that their experiences at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab continue to impact them for many years.”
"Speaking Evolution" is narrated by National Public Radio’s National Correspondent Debbie Elliot and features world-renown scientists, including Alabama’s own Dr. E. O. Wilson. Alabama Public Television will broadcast "Speaking Evolution" on Monday, November 6 at 8 p.m.