BEAGLE: Simulated Evolution

Simulated Evolution is the umbrella name for a set of projects focused on using agent-based modeling to explore and learn about evolutionary processes. The central idea of the Simulated Evolution project is to emphasize and manifest that evolution is more than a history of humans, fossils, life, but evolution is a fundamental process – a process by which populations of individuals can change over time through variation and selection.  This process applies not only to living things but also to behaviors, strategies, ideas, organizations, even to music and art.

Simulated Evolution projects address the needs of multiple constituencies: Simulated Evolution materials and models are in use in learning communities in both formal and informal settings; but they are also used in research laboratories to elaborate evolutionary theory, and in the media to illustrate and explicate evolutionary processes to the general public.

The Simulated Evolution project’s BEAGLE software (Biological Experiments in Adaptation, Genetics, Learning and Evolution) is specifically designed for learning evolution in both school and non-school settings. BEAGLE consists of a suite of NetLogo models and supporting materials designed to facilitate inquiry, teaching and learning of concepts and phenomena related to evolution, adaptation, and natural and artificial selection. Dozens of models have been developed to explore concepts in evolution and many more are currently under development. Since 1997,  BEAGLE models have been used, tested and modified by learners across a wide range of ages in both formal and informal settings. The Simulated Evolution project was formerly called evolab and includes EACH models (Evolution of Cooperative and Altruistic Habits) and other NetLogo models not in BEAGLE.

BEAGLE models let participants open simulations and "play" with them, exploring their behavior under various conditions. The user interface is intuitive enabling students and teachers to easily run simulations and conduct experiments in the virtual evolution laboratory.

The Center for Connected Learning (CCL) has been guided in the development of BEAGLE models by multiple sources including popular science materials, traditional genetics topics, benchmarks for science literacy, reform-based science curriculum units, and current state of the art evolutionary research. Once a new BEAGLE model idea has been identified, we then design and construct a NetLogo model that is vibrant, compelling, and accessible for the young adolescent, but also consistent with the scientific conceptions of a professional evolutionary biologist. Each model includes conceptual scaffolding for a user to begin to interact with it intuitively, explore and run experiments, and also use tools to analyze and dissect model assumptions.

BEAGLE models provide a special opportunity to support the transfer of knowledge between different disciplines and communities, by providing the same low entry level platform for exploring, analyzing, and building models of both simple and complex evolutionary concepts.

You can now play against other players in an online natural selection competition using a BEAGLE model.

A selection of the BEAGLE Models that are in the NetLogo Model Library are linked below.

Population Dynamics and Ecosystems

Artificial Selection

Genetic Drift

Natural Selection

Coevolution and Mimicry

Economic and Behavioral Evolution

Patterns of Inheritance

Cellular Automata


The project leader is Uri Wilensky.
The current development team members are:

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