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Understanding Climate’s Influence on Human Evolution
sediments and fossils. An important contribution to the understanding of evolutionary and environmental dynamics is the analysis of fauna and flora associated, geographically and temporally, with hominin fossils. An increased focus on adaptations in the faunal and floral assemblages associated with hominins—and by contrast, those that are not associated with hominins—will provide an invaluable resource for understanding the interaction between hominin evolution and past climates.
Development of the informatics and data archiving tools needed to provide permanent storage for the wide array of information collected by the activities listed above, and to facilitate continued access to this information. An important corollary requirement will be speedy community access to samples and their derived data within all of the disciplinary areas encompassed by this initiative—the hominin fossils and their associated fauna and flora; as well as the ocean, lake, and terrestrial drilling samples and data.
The coordination and management of a major international scientific program for International Climate and Human Evolution Research would require a small science advisory structure, with members representing the broader scientific community and with a broad vision of how these research components relate to each other, to foster communication among disciplinary groups, coordinate the implementation elements, and convey the science community’s priorities to funding agencies. On the basis of community input, this advisory committee would establish and periodically update plans for exploration, drilling, and modeling, and prioritize regions to be investigated. The committee would require sufficient funding to sponsor a range of workshops and town meetings, spanning the full range of disciplines associated with this research enterprise, to obtain and distill community input.
Public Outreach Opportunities
The public is fascinated by media accounts and documentaries on human evolution and the long-term origin of our species. Additionally, climate change has become a focal point for public interest. The intersection of these two broad areas of scientific research thus offers powerful opportunities for public outreach aimed at communicating the process and value of science to the welfare of humans, all living things, and entire ecosystems. The subject matter itself, which deals with human survival and adaptation in the past, also offers avenues for inspiring the public’s curiosity about scientific findings relevant to society’s adaptation to climate change in the near and distant future.
A state-of-the-art program in public education and outreach creates opportunities for diverse audiences along several avenues, which include (1) development of dynamic and up-to-date public Internet sites; (2) dissemination of findings