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NSF Funds Beck Environmental Change & Evolution Workshop


Earthrates, a National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Coordination Network has funded a workshop proposed by Assistant Professor of Geosciences Catherine Beck titled Drilling Deeper for Connections between Environmental Change and Evolution to be held on campus in April 2018. The workshop 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, that would be of interest to the broader scientific community.

Participants are an interdisciplinary group comprised of geologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, and paleoecologists. 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 essential component of this project would be to leverage and complement the existing Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP) West Turkana Kaitio (WTK) drill core and the decades of intensive outcrop study and paleoanthropological research in the region.

In the past, HSPDP has lacked female principal investigators, particularly overseeing sites. In putting together this workshop team, highly-qualified, female scientists will play a prominent role. By including attendees from multiple stages in their careers, from senior graduate students to senior researchers in both academia and museums, this workshop offers the opportunity to foster mentoring relationships between generations of researchers. This diversity of experiences will combine the expertise of senior faculty with the energy and insight of the next generation of scientific leaders.

The team is international in scope, including four scientists from Kenya where the proposed coring would take place. This is essential for continuing to build international collaborations and ensuring that Kenyans have a leadership role in shaping research in their country. Involvement at this ground level will facilitate subsequent opportunities for Kenyan students and junior researchers to receive support and training. It will also foster international exchange of ideas and information.

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