The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History hosted a two-day lecture series on human evolution this weekend in celebration of “Darwin Year.”

The event, titled “Symposium on Human Origins,” featured two panel discussions and a number of public lectures from prominent anthropologists. The museum held the symposium in honor of Charles Darwin, who would turn 200 years old this year. The year 2009 also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous work, “The Origin of Species.”

A cast of world-renowned anthropologists including Dr. Donald Johanson – who discovered the millions-old humanoid “Lucy” and is the founding director of the Institute of Human Origins – presided over the lectures, which drew residents from all over Southern California.

It was Johanson’s discovery of Australopithecus afarensis, dubbed “Lucy” after the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” that served as a crucial link to understanding modern humans and their relationship to hominid ancestors. Johanson’s group also helped to organize the weekend’s events.

Hillel Cogan, a psychology major from Santa Monica City College, made the trip to Santa Barbara to attend both days of lectures.

“[The panel discussions were] extremely interesting – a bit of a drive, but definitely worth it,” he said.

The first day of presentations were “aimed at scientists and other experts in the field who had significant personal investment in anthropology,” according to museum spokesperson Easter Moorman. These scholarly sessions addressed topics ranging from the acquisition of specific human adaptations such as bipedalism to original hominid migrations.

Dr. Philip Lieberman, an expert on human speech development, and Dr. Terry Harrison, an anthropologist with a concentration on Miocene and Pliocene hominoids, were among the fifteen prominent field experts who attended.

Saturday’s program focused on topics such as Neanderthals, hominid behavior and evolutionary theory. According to Moorman, these lectures were “aimed at attracting a broader audience due to the shorter sessions,” though both days of the program were open to the general public.

Moorman said the museum holds lecture series on a wide range of topics throughout the year in an attempt to expose visitors to different aspects of history.

“This symposium was just one of the museum’s ongoing educational events throughout the year which range from A to Z, from Anthropology to Zoology,” Moorman said.