Catherine Beck.

Associate Professor of Geosciences Cat Beck recently co-authored two papers stemming from her work with the Hominin Sites and Paleolakes Drilling Project (HSPDP), which she has been involved in since drilling these cores began in 2013. Beck joined the HSPDP team as a graduate student at Rutgers University and shortly after assumed a leadership position with the project.

Beck said the papers combine the work of HSPDP into an integrated regional framework that allows “us to [tackle] some interesting and big-picture questions about why we are the way we are as a species and what the roles of climate and environmental change might have been in shaping that evolutionary history.”

Orbital controls on eastern African hydroclimate in the Pleistocene” appears in the open access journal Scientific Reports. “Reconstructing the Environmental Context of Human Origins in Eastern Africa Through Scientific Drilling” was published online ahead of print publication in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

According to the HSPDP website, the project collects “lake sediments from key localities in Kenya and Ethiopia to vastly improve our understanding of the paleoenvironmental/paleoclimatic context of human evolution,” with the goal of transforming “the debate concerning how environmental dynamics at global, regional and local scales may have shaped hominin evolutionary history.”

Beck said her time with HSPDP has been “one of the most formative opportunities of my career thus far.”

Working on this project has allowed her the opportunity to work with leaders from around the world in the field of eastern African paleolimnological research, she said. “It motivated me to dream big and think about what future scientific drilling should target in the Turkana Basin of Kenya which has been the focus of my research.”

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