Historian of Science Milam Traces Evolutionary Theory Through Time
Photo credit: Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications
Since Charles Darwin first put forth his theory of sexual selection in the 19th century, there has been endless debate about what drives procreation. What is the relationship between male-male competition and female choice? And can animals truly exercise “choice?”
These questions preoccupied Erika Milam as she was working on her graduate thesis in biology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She was studying the behavior of sculpins, a type of fish that reproduces in a dizzying variety of ways.
“The thing I found most fascinating was that [researchers] would look at the same set of animals and come to different conclusions,” she said. “So it wasn’t that they had different data — that there were arguments about the data — it was simply that they were seeing different things.”