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Nat Geo: A Natural Selection Of Marketing Behind Darwin Bicentennial Fare

National Geographic Channel is commemorating the bicentennial of Charles Darwin's birth with a trio of specials, flanked by digital media and attendant marketing materials.
Sharing a birthday with the 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12, 1809, Darwin wrote the Origin of Species, the groundbreaking book in 1859 that has become a cornerstone of evolutionary theory.

National Geographic Channel will bring his work to life in a new, three-part series starting Sunday, Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT). Morphed brings ancient creatures back to life and recreates the most dramatic forces impacting their evolution - from natural disasters to competitors and brushes with extinction.

Two nights later at 9 p.m., Nat Geo, using his personal notebooks, recreates the scientist's transcontinental odyssey aboard the HMS Beagle in Darwin's Secret Notebooks.
An hour later at 10pm, NGC travels into the Congo River basin of Africa to witness the ongoing process of evolution in a phenomenal natural underwater laboratory with Explorer: Monster Fish of the Congo.

The network has created microsites supplementing its three specials. At natgeotv.com/morphed, users can find video, photos and interactive elements, enabling them to explore ancient creatures on their evolutionary journey. Users can rotate 3-D models of each creature at a different stage in their evolutionary development, "morphing" fluidly between each. As such, visitors can revisit a time when whales had legs, see dinosaurs evolve into turkeys, and join bears on their own evolutionary path.
At the Explorer: Monster Fish of the Congo site, users can view photos and download wallpaper and screen savers. Site visitors will join Adventure Magazine's "Adventurer of the Year," Trip Jennings, on a kayaking trip through the Congo - tracing his footsteps on an interactive map featuring an audio diary he recorded while on expedition. The site also offers in-depth facts about unique and strange species of the Congo river at www.natgeotv.com/explorer.
Moreover, visitors can see video, photos and Web facts based on Darwin's expedition in Darwin's Secret Notebooks at www.natgeotv.com/darwin.
Still a controversial subject relative to scientific, religious, educational and legal implications, evolution will be the subject of a live blogging event by a panel of experts on Feb. 8 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) Users can submit questions in advance at: http://ngccommunity.nationalgeographic.com/ngcblogs/inside-ngc/.

The panel of experts include: Brad Williamson, former president of the National Association of Biology Teachers who advocate teaching evolution as scientific principle; Patsye Peebles, founding member of the Louisiana Coalition for Science who testified against creationist-sponsored Bill 733 in Louisiana; Ted Peters, an author and editor on Christian and Lutheran theology in the modern world; and Dr. M. J. Hewlett, an emeritus professor in the department of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and co-author of Can You Believe in God and Evolution? A Guide for the Perplexed.

In addition to spots that have been running on Nat Geo's own-air since Jan. 5 in support of Morphed, the network this past week has run a schedule nationally on DirecTV on a mix of news, sports, nonfiction and general-entertainment networks. Nat Geo also bought time on similar programming in key markets, according to network officials.
The cover of National Geographic Magazine's February issue features "What Darwin Didn't Know," including tune-in information. There was also an editorial blurb in the "Inside Geographic" section, replete with photo.