This video was filmed on November 11, 2011 as part of the National Geographic Live! Lecture series at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.


Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Beth Shapiro discuss why only certain species survive and how a growing knowledge of genomes reveals a deeper understanding of life's cycles and secrets. Martin Chalfie introduced green florescent protein as a biological marker, enabling scientists to study biological processes that were previously invisible. He shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Osamu Shimomura and Roger Y. Tsien for the discovery and development of the green florescent protein, GFP.


As a molecular biologist, Beth Shapiro studies ancient DNA samples and statistical models. Her work gives scientists a new view of the past. Leading the discussion is Boyd Matson, host of National Geographic Weekend.


  • The discovery of green florescent protein and the "real way" discoveries are made (start-2:01 min.)


Strategies for Using Video in a Variety of Learning Environments

  • Have students preview several of the videos and choose the one they find most inspiring. Have students describe in writing a conversation they might have with the speaker(s).
  • Freeze the video on a relevant image. Have students observe details in the still image and jot down predictions of what the full video might address. Discuss students’ ideas before and after watching the video.
  • Pose an open-ended question before students watch the video, and have them discuss their ideas before and after in small groups.
  • Have students determine what they think the key message of this video is. Was the speaker effective in getting his or her message across?
  • Show a short clip to engage students during class, and then have students watch the full video at home and write a paragraph responding to the content or a question you give them.
  • Have students note statements that represent facts or opinions, including where it’s difficult to tell the difference. What further research might help distinguish facts and opinions? How might the speaker’s viewpoint compare with others’ viewpoints about a topic?



chemical element with the symbol Ca.


something seen, documented, or noticed for the first time.


statement or suggestion that explains certain questions about certain facts. A hypothesis is tested to determine if it is accurate.

Nobel Prize

one of five awards established by the Swedish businessman Alfred Nobel in 1901. Nobel Prizes are awarded in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.


one of many complex compounds, made of chains of amino acids, that make up the majority of all cellular structures and are necessary for biological processes.