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Tinghitella Lab to be Featured on PBS Documentary Series This Week

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Matt Meyer



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Tinghitella shows a guest research

The work of the Tinghitella Lab at the University of Denver studying the evolution of crickets will be showcased in front of a national audience this week. College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics faculty Robin Tinghitella, who specializes in evolutionary biology, and her team will be featured on the second episode of Evolution Earth, a five-part nature documentary series on PBS, which airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Tinghitella says the production crew—who work on the channels Love Nature and ARTE as well as PBS— reached out in 2021 after encountering one of many stories about her lab’s research on crickets and decided she’d be a good fit for an episode titled “Islands,” which focuses on evolutionary traits in that environment.

The production team and Tinghitella were able to home in on the way crickets have changed their chirps based on environmental factors.

“They were really intrigued by the rapid pace at which the evolution was happening in our study system,” Tinghitella said. “It worked out really well timing-wise that when they wanted to film, I was actually here on the island of Kauai on sabbatical. Most of my lab flew out, so all the grad students and post-docs were able to be involved in the process. Everybody was really engaged, and it ended up being a cool experience.”

The crew spent nine days working with the lab, filming various field experiments and reenacting certain discoveries. The lab also got a front row seat to the technology and techniques used to film animals up close in popular nature documentaries.

“It’s just a very cricket’s-eye view of the world, and it’s incredible to see how that was captured,” Tinghitella says. “Most people never get to see that.”

Tinghitella added that she was thrilled to be featured alongside some of her “research heroes” and that the lab will help tell a cohesive story on evolutionary biology in an island ecosystem.

“The stories that come out in our research are so approachable,” Tinghitella says. “There's so much about animal behavior and cool discoveries. It’s such a fantastic vessel for a foray into animal behavior and evolution for people who aren’t scientists.”

For more information on Evolution Earth or to watch the episode shortly after it has aired, visit the PBS site for the series.