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Project Information

Project Information


The Earth System Context for Hominin Evolution


Project Scope:

Earth scientists, paleoanthropologists, and archaeologists who study human evolution have long recognized the likelihood that environmental parameters, particularly paleoclimate, significantly impacted the evolution of our species. Nevertheless, many of the details of the paleoenvironmental context for the more than 7 million years of hominin evolution are poorly constrained, making inferences concerning the nature and extent of such impacts problematic.
To address this shortcoming, an NRC committee will:
* Assess the present understanding of the earth system context for hominin evolution during the past 8 million years.
* Describe high priority research directions for an enhanced understanding of the paleoenvironmental context for hominin evolution.
* Describe optimum strategies for achieving the priority research objectives, with particular emphasis on interdisciplinary initiatives.

In addition, the committee will suggest strategies for broad scientific and public dissemination of credible information concerning the earth system context for hominin evolution.

The project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
The start date for the project is 9/1/2006, and a report will be issued at the end of the project in approximately 18 months.

Note: The project duration was extended, with the report to be issued in early 2010.

Status: Completed

PIN: BESR-U-06-01-A

Project Duration (months): 18 month(s)

RSO: Feary, David

Board(s)/Committee(s):

Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Topic(s):

Behavioral and Social Sciences
Biology and Life Sciences
Earth Sciences
Environment and Environmental Studies



Geographic Focus:

Committee Membership

Committee Post Date: 08/03/2007

Robert M. Hamilton - (Chair)
National Research Council [Retired]

ROBERT M. HAMILTON retired as Deputy Executive Director of DELS in 2004. He had previously served as Executive Director of CGER, following 30 years as a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He currently represents the NAS on a committee dealing with natural disaster loss reduction for the Inter-Academy Panel. Previously, he chaired the Committee on Disaster Reduction for the International Council for Science (ICSU), chaired the Scientific and Technical Committee of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), a United Nations program for the 1990s. He also served for two years with the IDNDR Secretariat in Geneva, including a year as director. He has been a member of the Inter-agency Task Force for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, a follow-on United Nations program to the IDNDR. He also chaired the Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction of the National Science and Technology Council. Dr. Hamilton served as president of the Seismological Society of America, and president and secretary of the Seismology Section of the American Geophysical Union. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr Hamilton has a geophysical engineering degree from Colorado School of Mines, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in geophysics from the University of California, Berkeley.
Berhane Asfaw
Rift Valley Research Service

BERHANE ASFAW is a palaeoanthropologist who manages the Rift Valley Research Service. He graduated from Addis Ababa University in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in geology, and later he earned his Ph.D. degree from University of California Berkeley's Anthropology graduate school. Dr. Asfaw has completed extensive survey work on the eastern and western side of the Awash River in Ethiopia. He was instrumental in explorations that discovered fossils thought to be some of the earliest hominids (called Ardithecus ramidus - dated at about 4 million-plus years). Those same expeditions also led to the discovery of Australopithecus garhi, a 2.5 million-year-old hominid found in association with old bones with cut marks. Dr. Asfaw has held positions within the Ethiopian government, including director of National Museums and coordinator of the Paleoanthropology Laboratory of The National Museum of Ethiopia.
Gail M. Ashley
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick

GAIL M. ASHLEY is a professor of geological sciences and director of the Quaternary Studies Graduate Program at Rutgers University, New Jersey. Her research interests include a comparison of terrestrial records of paleoclimate during the Quaternary in polar, temperate, and tropical regions, and reconstruction of the paleoenvironment of early hominids. She is currently president of the American Geological Institute and has served as president of the Geological Society of America, vice-president of the International Association of Sedimentologists, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Sedimentary Research, president of the Society for Sedimentary Geology, and a past member of the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources. Dr. Ashley received B.S. and M.S. degrees in geology from the University of Massachusetts and a Ph.D. in geology from the University of British Columbia.
Thure E. Cerling
University of Utah

THURE E. CERLING (NAS) is Distinguished Professor of Geology and Geophysics and Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of Utah. His research focuses on near-surface processes and the geological record of ecological change, particularly using geochemical proxies to understand the physiology and paleodiets of mammals, using soils as indicators of climatological and ecological change over geologic time scales, and landscape evolution over the last several million years. Dr. Cerling has served on several NRC committees, including BESR, the U.S. Committee for Geodynamics, and the U.S. National Committee for the International Union for Quaternary Research. He is a member of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. Dr. Cerling is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America. He received B.S degrees in geology and chemistry from Iowa State University, an M.S. degr ee in geology from Iowa State University, and his Ph.D. in geology from the University of California, Berkeley.


Andrew S. Cohen
University of Arizona

ANDREW S. COHEN is a professor of geosciences and a joint professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. Dr. Cohen's research focuses on the paleolimnology, the interpretation of environmental and climatic history from lake deposits. He does most of his work on lakes in the African Rift VAlley, in the western US and in South America, with major projects investigating Quaternary climate change in Africa and the US Great Basin and studying deforestation impacts on lacustrine ecosystems. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of California.

Peter B. deMenocal
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University

PETER B. deMENOCAL is a professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. He uses proxies in marine sediments, primarily stable isotope and trace metal geochemistry, to reconstruct past changes in ocean circulation and terrestrial climate. Recent research projects include: Holocene climate and ocean circulation variability, tropical to extratropical paleoclimate linkages, Pliocene-Pleistocene evolution of tropical climates, and human evolution and past african climates. Dr. deMenocal is widely recognized as one of the leaders of the scientific effort to understand earth parameters during the time that hominins evolved. He has a B.S. in geology from St. Lawrence University, an M.S. in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography, and a Ph.D. in geology from Columbia University.

Andrew P. Hill
Yale University

ANDREW P. HILL is the J. Clayton Stephenson Professor of Anthropology at Yale University, and Curator of Anthropology in the Peabody Museum. Other affiliations are with the Council on Archaeological Studies and the Council on African Studies. Before coming to Yale in 1985 he held research positions at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi, and at Harvard. He is interested in the whole range of human evolution, particularly in the environmental and ecological context in which it occurred. Since 1968 he has carried out field work in eastern Africa, in Pakistan, and in the United Arab Emirates. For many years he has directed the Baringo Paleontological Research Project, a multidisciplinary research program operating in the Tugen Hills, Kenya. He teaches courses on different aspects of human evolution, faunal analysis, and taphonomy. Dr. Hill has a B.Sc. (Hons) from Reading University and a Ph.D. from the University of London.
Thomas C. Johnson
University of Minnesota, Duluth

THOMAS C. JOHNSON is a professor of geology and was the founding director of the Large Lakes Observatory at the University of Minnesota, Duluth from 1994 to 2004. His research interests currently focus on tropical paleoclimatology, based primarily on the analysis of sediment cores recovered from the large lakes of the East African Rift Valley. Dr. Johnson served as a member of the Great Lakes Research Managers Council, International Joint Commission from 2000 to 2004, and he was the co-founder and member of the Steering Committee of the International Decade for East African Lakes (IDEAL) from 1993 to 2005. He serves of the Boards of Directors of DOSECC (Deep Observation and Sampling of the Earth's Continental Crust) and of the International Association of Limnogeologists. He has a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of California at San Diego.
John E. Kutzbach
University of Wisconsin-Madison

JOHN E. KUTZBACH (NAS) is professor emeritus of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, and environmental sciences in the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to retirement, he was Director at the Center for Climatic Research. He continues a part-time appointment as Associate Director and Senior Scientist. His research focuses on understanding the processes that control climate variablity, and trends in the past, present and future, studying decade/century scale climate variability over recent millennia as well as linkages between vegetation changes and climate changes. Dr. Kutzbach is a fellow of the the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society. Some of his awards include the “Revelle Medal” of the American Geophysical Union and the “Milankovitch Medal” of the European Geophysical Society. He has B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Richard Potts
Smithsonian Institution

RICHARD POTTS is a paleoanthropologist and director of the Human Origins Program and curator of anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. His research focuses on the history of the interrelationships between human evolution and the ecosystem. Over the past decade, Dr. Potts has led excavations at early human sites in the East African rift valley, and currently directs a multidisciplinary research team at the handaxe site of Olorgesailie, Kenya. In addition to research articles and books, he has recently completed a book for a general audience titled Humanity's Descent: The Consequences of Ecological Instability. In addition, Dr. Potts was awarded a Certificate of Honor by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for the Emmy-winning Tales of the Human Dawn on PBS. He has a B.A. in anthropology from Temple University and a Ph.D. in biological anthropology from Harvard University.
Alan R. Rogers
University of Utah

ALAN R. ROGERS is a professor of anthropology and adjunct professor of biology at the University of Utah. Dr. Rogers’ research focuses on using genetic data to understand the history of human population size, based on developing new statistical methods to detect population size changes using sequence data. This largely focuses on understanding the huge population increase of early humans in the Late Pleistocene. Additionally, his research interests include the adaptive evolution of such traits as menopause and human time preference. In 1991, the University of Utah recognized Dr. Rogers’ work with their Superior Research Award. He was a former Associate Editor of Molecular Biology and Evolution. He received a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in anthropology from the University of New Mexico.
Alan Walker
Pennsylvania State University

ALAN C. WALKER (NAS) is the Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology and Biology at The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Walker endeavors to extract ancient behaviors from the fossil and taphonomic record. Teeth record information about an individual's life history and semicircular canals are tuned to a species' rapidity of locomotion. Walker is now developing nondestructive methods for examining tooth enamel and measuring fossil labyrinths so that rare hominoid and hominid specimens can be used. He is a research associate of the National Museum of Kenya and has had many collaborative field programs with the Museum, the latest being at Allia Bay, east Lake Turkana. He has a B.A. (hons) in geology from Cambridge University and a Ph.D. in anatomy and paleontology from the University of London. He also has an honorary D.Sc. from the University of Chicago. Dr. Walker is a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Events



Location:

J. Erik Jonsson Woods Hole Center
314 Quissett Ave.
Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Event Type :  
-

Registration for Online Attendance :   
NA

Registration for in Person Attendance :   
NA


If you would like to attend the sessions of this event that are open to the public or need more information please contact

Contact Name:  Tonya Fong Yee
Contact Email:  tfongyee@nas.edu
Contact Phone:  202.334.1331

Agenda
The Meeting is closed in its entirety.
Supporting File(s)
-
Is it a Closed Session Event?
Yes

Closed Session Summary Posted After the Event

The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the event:

Robert Hamilton
Gail Ashley
Thure Cerling
Andrew Cohen
Peter deMenocal
Andrew Hill
Thomas Johnson
John Kutzbach
Richard Potts
Kaye Reed
Alan Walker

The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:

Report Conclusions and Recommendations
Report Structure and editting


The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:

None

Date of posting of Closed Session Summary:
November 12, 2008
Publication(s) resulting from the event:

-


Location:

Westward Look Resort
245 East Ina Road
Tucson, AZ 85704
Event Type :  
-

Registration for Online Attendance :   
NA

Registration for in Person Attendance :   
NA


If you would like to attend the sessions of this event that are open to the public or need more information please contact

Contact Name:  Tonya Fong Yee
Contact Email:  TFongYee@nas.edu
Contact Phone:  202-334-1331

Agenda
The meeting will be closed in its entirety
Supporting File(s)
-
Is it a Closed Session Event?
Yes

Closed Session Summary Posted After the Event

The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the event:

Robert M. Hamilton (Chair)
Berhane Asfaw
Gail M. Ashley
Thure E. Cerling
Andrew S. Cohen
Peter B. deMenocal
Andrew P. Hill
Thomas C. Johnson
John E. Kutzbach
Richard Potts
Kaye E. Reed
Alan R. Rogers
Alan C. Walker


The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:

The committee reviewed the first draft of their report, and developed an updated table of contents and new writing assignments.

The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:

First draft of the committee's report
Committee summaries of breakout sessions at the earlier workshop (2nd Meeting)


Date of posting of Closed Session Summary:
May 13, 2008
Publication(s) resulting from the event:

-


Location:

Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center
100 Academy Way, Irvine, CA 92617
Event Type :  
-

Registration for Online Attendance :   
NA

Registration for in Person Attendance :   
NA


If you would like to attend the sessions of this event that are open to the public or need more information please contact

Contact Name:  Tonya Fong Yee
Contact Email:  TFongYee@nas.edu
Contact Phone:  202-334-1331

Agenda
WORKSHOP: Earth System Context for Hominin Evolution

DRAFT AGENDA

Thursday, February 21, 2008
7.45 a.m. Assemble in hotel lobby and bus to Beckman Center
8.15 a.m. Working Continental Breakfast
9.00 Welcome Statements Bob Hamilton
Committee Chair
Rich Lane
National Science Foundation

9.30 PLENARY ADDRESS:
Tempo and trends and possible causes of African climate change during the Pliocene-Pleistocene Peter deMenocal

10.00-10.30 Break

10.30-12.00 BREAKOUT-I
Question 1: What was the history and variability of hominin paleoenvironments over the last 8 Ma?
Question 2: How do we improve geochronological control and temporal resolution?

12.00-1.00 Working Lunch

1.00 PLENARY ADDRESS:
The Tempo of Evolution Rick Potts

1.30-3.00 BREAKOUT-II
Question 3: Can terrestrial, lacustrine, and marine paleoenvironmental record be reconciled in terms of known forcing mechanisms?
Question 4: How can biotic evolution and adaptation be quantified?

3.00-3.30 Break

3.30 PLENARY ADDRESS:
Climate, Tectonics, and Hominin Evolution Peter Molnar

4.00-5.30 BREAKOUT-III
Question 5: How does the terrestrial biotic record relate to the paleoenvironmental changes indicated by terrestrial, lacustrine, and marine records?
Question 6: How do we improve our understanding of hominin interactions with their environment?

5.30-7.00 Reception at the Beckman Center


Friday, February 22, 2008

7.45 a.m. Assemble in hotel lobby and bus to Beckman Center

8.15 a.m. Working Continental Breakfast

9.00 PLENARY ADDRESS:
Early hominid skeletal biology, environmental context, and behavior - a view from Afar Tim White

9.30-10.00 BREAKOUT REPORTS – Questions 1-6
10.00-10.30 Break
10.30-11.30 BREAKOUT REPORTS (cont) – Questions 1-6

11.30 PLENARY ADDRESS:
Working Title: Tectonostratigraphic Context of Turkana Basin Frank Brown

12.00-1.00 Working Lunch

1.00 PLENARY ADDRESS:
The Cape Floral Kingdom, Shellfish, and Modern Human Origins: Transdisciplinary Problems require Transdisciplinary Projects Curtis Marean

1.30-3.00 BREAKOUT-IV
Question 7: What new archives, proxies, and methods are needed?
Question 8: How do we test the null hypothesis that human evolution was unaffected by environmental change?

3.00-3.30 Break

3.30-4.30 BREAKOUT REPORTS – Questions 7-8
4.30 Wrap-up and Thanks Bob Hamilton
Committee Chair
5.00 Adjourn


Saturday, February 23, 2008
CLOSED SESSION

Supporting File(s)
-
Is it a Closed Session Event?
Yes

Closed Session Summary Posted After the Event

The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the event:

Robert M. Hamilton (Chair)
Berhane Asfaw
Gail M. Ashley
Thure E. Cerling
Andrew S. Cohen
Peter B. deMenocal
Andrew P. Hill
Thomas C. Johnson
John E. Kutzbach
Richard Potts
Kaye E. Reed
Alan C. Walker


The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:

Report Structure
Findings from Workshop
Conclusions and Initiatives

The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:

None

Date of posting of Closed Session Summary:
February 26, 2008
Publication(s) resulting from the event:

-


Location:

Keck Center
500 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Event Type :  
-

Registration for Online Attendance :   
NA

Registration for in Person Attendance :   
NA


If you would like to attend the sessions of this event that are open to the public or need more information please contact

Contact Name:  Tonya Fong Yee
Contact Email:  TFongYee@nas.edu
Contact Phone:  (202) 334-1331

Agenda
Keck Center, Room 105
500 Fifth St NW
Washington, DC 20001
September 27-29, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007:

CLOSED SESSION - 8.00 am to 5.00 pm

Friday, September 28, 2007:

OPEN SESSION
8.00 a.m. Working Continental Breakfast
SPONSOR BRIEFING - HOPES AND EXPECTATIONS:
8.30 Welcome and Introductions
Bob Hamilton (Chair)
8.45 NSF-SBE Perspective
Mark Weiss, Rich Kay, and Don Grayson, Archeology/Anthropology, NSF-BCS.
[Schedule conflicts - equivalent NSF-GEO Perspective deferred until Saturday am]

KEYNOTE PRESENTATIONS:
9.30 Personal Perspective on Committee’s Task
Mikael Fortelius, Department of Geology, University of Helsinki
10.00-10.30 Break
10.30 What They Hear vs What You Say—and Why it Matters
Eugenie Scott, National Center for Science Education, Oakland, CA
11.00 Thoughts on Human Evolution and Climatic Change
Steven Stanley, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Hawaii (statement to be read on Steve’s behalf by David Feary)
11.30 Thoughts on the Environmental Context of Human Evolution
Bill Ruddiman, University of Virginia (statement to be read on Bill’s behalf by David Feary)
12.00-1.00 Working Lunch
1.00 (How) Do Genes Matter?
Ken Weiss, Pennsylvania State University
1.30 Open Discussion
Bob Hamilton (Chair)

CLOSED SESSION
2.00 pm to 5.00 pm

Saturday, September 29, 2007:

OPEN SESSION
8.00 a.m. Working Continental Breakfast
SPONSOR BRIEFING - HOPES AND EXPECTATIONS:
8.30 Welcome and Introductions
Bob Hamilton (Chair)
8.45 NSF-GEO Perspective
Rich Lane, Enriqueta Barrera, and Ray Bernor, Earth Sciences, NSF-GEO
9.30-10.00 Break

CLOSED SESSION
10.00 am to 1.00 pm
Supporting File(s)
-
Is it a Closed Session Event?
Yes

Closed Session Summary Posted After the Event

The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the event:

Robert Hamilton (Chair)
Berhane Asfaw
Gail Ashley
Thure Cerling
Andrew Cohen
Peter deMenocal
Andrew Hill
Thomas Johnson
John Kutzbach
Richard Potts
Kaye Reed (by phone)
Alan Walker
David Feary (Staff Officer)

The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:

Committee bias and conflict of interest discussion
Whether committee has appropriate expertise

Workshop Planning:
- dates and structure
- questions to be asked
- recommendations for attendee invitations

Future Meeting dates

The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:

NA

Date of posting of Closed Session Summary:
October 01, 2007
Publication(s) resulting from the event:

-

Publications

  • Publications having no URL can be seen at the Public Access Records Office