The Ancestor’s Trail: USA

REGISTER NOW! (SUNY New Paltz students are FREE!!!)

Official SUNY New Paltz press release here!

GUIDEBOOK for Opening Day (4/28/2018)

NOTE: At the 4/28 event, all hiking groups will meet at Rendezvous Point #4, the end of Trail #5. From there, everyone will, together, hike back in time to the point of the origins of life on earth, 3.8 billion years ago. The distance in YEARS that we will be traveling from that particular point is three billion three hundred sixty million years – with each step back to the Pavilion from this point corresponding to approximately 19,047,619 years in the history of life on earth.


Extended Guidebook (To be used as a compendium)

Friday, 4/27:
400-530 (SUNY NP; CSB Auditorium) –
WHY EVOLUTION MATTERS – brief talks on the guts of evolution by evolutionary leaders across the globe
* Join “Charles Robert Darwin” and “Alfred Russell Wallace” – and many others for Victorian specials at Bacchus Restaurant in New Paltz!
9:30am – Informal car caravan from campus (starting in front of Vandenberg Hall) to the Spring Farm trailhead of the Mohonk Preserve
10:00am – official welcome at the Pavilion of the Mohonk Preserve
10:30am – the groups disband to start the pilgrimage back to the origins of life on earth
~1:30pm – post-hike congregation at the pavilion – good cheer!

On April 28 (Sat.), in collaboration with the Mohonk Preserve, EvoS @ New Paltz will be hosting the first-ever US offering of the Ancestor’s Trail – a unique educational experience that maps different lineages of life onto real hiking trails – to provide for a first-hand and participatory education regarding the evolution of life.

Interpretive Guide with trails and phylogenetic benchmarks

Ancestor’s Trail USA

This project will lead to the demarcation of a set of hiking trails that map onto different evolutionary lineages of life – as a one-of-a-kind hands-on evolution education activity that integrates the concepts of evolutionary time scale and natural selection with a great outdoors experience.

This project, based on the highly renowned UK installment of this trail (which has gotten very positive media attention from such entities as Smithsonian Magazine), and ultimately based on Richard Dawkins’ book The Anecstor’s Tale, will be implemented by Evolutionary Studies faculty and students at SUNY New Paltz in collaboration with the Mohonk Preserve, which oversees an extraordinary set of trails in our local mountains (the Shawangunks).

The opening-ceremony event will take place on Saturday, 4/28 at the Spring Farm Trailhead of the Mohonk Preserve. The kickoff will take place at 10am, when participants will be organized into groups based on which specific trail or trails they want to experience. Docents, comprised of SUNY New Paltz student and faculty volunteers, will lead these hikes back in evolutionary time and will provide interpretation via a guidebook.

Per our agreements on this project with the Preserve, we are going to be able to offer any current SUNY New Paltz student the opportunity to hike the trails on the Preserve at no cost during the opening ceremony event – and Mohonk Preserve members will be also be able to participate free of charge.

We encourage any and all folks who are interested in taking part in this event to join us! The fee for the general public is $15 (the same as the fee to hike on the Preserve lands for a day). (Registration page will soon be linked here)

After the opening weekend, this set of trails and the interpretive guidebook will be available on a perennial basis, to be used by science educators and to anyone interested in the nature of life itself.

US Ancestor’s Trail Directors:

Aron Wiegand (M.S, Visiting Scholar in Psychology, SUNY New Paltz)

Glenn Geher (Founding Director of Evolutionary Studies, SUNY New Paltz)

Olivia G. Jewell (Master’s candidate in Psychology, SUNY New Paltz)

NOTE: The idea for the Ancestor’s Trail came from renowned UK science educator,  Chris Jenord

Student Volunteer Signup Information


Trail Information 


Schedule of Events