Assistant Professor of Geosciences Catherine Beck in Kenya.

Assistant Professor of Geosciences Catherine Beck is hosting a conference this weekend, April 20–22, titled Drilling Deeper for Connections between Environmental Change and Evolution that will address rates of paleoenvironmental change and their impact on hominin evolution. The goal of the workshop is to define potential coring targets in the Turkana Basin, Kenya, and to craft a drilling project to study the impact of changing climate and environment on hominins who have lived millions of years in this region of northern Kenya.

“One of the features of this is there will be a live webcast that is open to all for the duration of the workshop, and we are really seeking to engage a broad and diverse audience in the early planning phase of our science,” said Beck. “The discussions will be on a technical level and are not geared towards a general audience. However, the live stream provides an opportunity to witness how science works and how major decisions are made through discourse.” 

Funded by EarthRates, a National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Coordination Network, the conference will include an interdisciplinary group of geologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, and paleoecologists. The group also includes a Kenyan scientist, senior scientists, and graduate students. Beck included older, established academics so the new generation of professors, including herself, can learn from them. Participants are coming from as near as Syracuse University and as far as the National Museum of Kenya. 

Beck's senior thesis students, Margaret O'Brien and Chris Klein, as well as geosciences concentrators John Dennis, Alison Kingston, Jada Langston, Lucas Mangold,  and Jenny Soonthornrangsan will also participate in the workshop.  “We are interested in engaging students in this workshop! Coring projects like this can take more than a decade to get funded so having early career people is essential as they will be the future,”  Beck observed.  O'Brien will be in charge of the chat feature on the streaming platform, and she will serve as the voice for community members who might have ideas or feedback to contribute. 

The output from this workshop would be a roadmap leading to applications for NSF and International Continental Scientific Drilling Project (ICDP) support for a coring project in the Turkana Basin. An article in the Alumni Review provides additional details about the project.

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