Gray Fossil Site will celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday, science and the natural world Feb. 8 when it hosts Darwin Day.

This year, Darwin Day commemorates the 210th birthday of Darwin, the famed 19th-century naturalist whose research laid the foundation for the modern understanding of life on Earth. Darwin’s actual birthday was Feb. 12.

Visitors will join biologists, geoscientists, anthropologists for the celebration and can take part  in educational, family-friendly, hands-on activities and engage directly with scientists as they present diverse collections of fossils, insects, plants and more.

“Darwin Day is our most popular annual event at the Gray Fossil Site,” said Blaine Schubert, executive director of the ETSU Center of Excellence in Paleontology, drawing in visitors who want to learn more about nature and science.

“This year we will have more activities than last year, including a special talk on Darwin’s experiments, a visit from Charles Darwin, and a first-time visit from Alfred Russell Wallace, the co-founder of evolution by natural selection,” Schubert said.

Participating partners in this year’s event will include Bristol’s Steele Creek Park, Kingsport’s Bays Mountain Park, the Western North Carolina Nature Center, Mars Hill University, Western Carolina University and East Tennessee State University biologists, geoscientists, anthropologists and more.

This year will also feature a presentation, “DIY Experimenting with the Darwins: A Guide to Darwin-inspired Experiments for Home and School,” by Dr. James T. Costa of WCU. The talk will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will be appropriate for adults and older children. Some of Costa’s books on Charles Darwin will also be available, with a book-signing after the talk.

Darwin Day activities will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are free to the public. The Hands-On! Discovery Center will also offer discounted admission for other exhibits and programs.

The Gray Fossil Site is a one-of-a-kind paleontological resource preserving the remains of hundreds of extinct species that lived in East Tennessee five million years ago. Discovered in 2000 during road construction, the site is now home to the ETSU Museum of Natural History and the Hands On! Discovery Center. It is a hub of education and scientific research.