Geological and Paleoanthropological Data Harmonization Workshop

Project: Research project

Project Details


Collaborative Geological Field Review of Paleoanthropological Sites
in the Lower Awash Valley, Ethiopia
Project Summary
We propose to organize a workshop that will provide a unique opportunity for geologists and
paleontologists to collaborate in the field at Pliocene and early Pleistocene paleoanthropological
research sites in the lower Awash valley (Ethiopia; Hadar, Dikika, Ledi-Geraru, Woranso-Mille, and
Mille-Logya projects). This field-based workshop will facilitate collaboration on basin-wide
geological and paleoanthropological research questions that transcend project boundaries and, as
such, cannot be answered from any individual project area. The workshop will be conducted in the
form of field reviews in an attempt to generate novel and transformative interpretations as well as
generate new research questions for future collaborative proposals that span beyond project
Intellectual Merit
A major impediment to the study of human origins and evolution has been that field studies are often
conducted within the bounds of spatially restricted project areas. These project area boundaries are
rarely based on broader ecological or geological constraints, and these limitations impede the
formulation of overarching research questions that are critical for understanding hominin evolution
and its context over larger scales of time and space. For geologists, conducting inter- and intraregional
comparisons can be challenging as they do not always have direct knowledge of information
from adjacent research project areas--boundaries across which outcrops are contiguous. As a result,
researchers have not effectively and comprehensively addressed broader regional-scale research
This workshop reflects the idea that tremendous progress could be made in understanding the
geological context of human evolution through better communication, collaborative work, and
transparent data sharing. No one location/research project in the lower Awash River valley preserves
a complete and continuous sequence of Pliocene and early Pleistocene sediments. When combined,
however, they encompass an impressive temporal and spatial coverage of early hominin habitats
within a complex rifting environment. There is tremendous potential to use the combined record from
these project areas to evaluate how rifting has evolved and to explore the interplay between climate,
tectonics, evolution, and paleoecology in the Afar. In this situation, the whole is greater than the sum
of its parts and geological research questions pertaining to early hominin paleoenvironments can only
be answered by multi-project, interdisciplinary integration and cooperation. The net added value for
research is significant when geologists with different perspectives collaborate and draw upon group
experience to address issues of regional importance in the field with access to primary data.
Broader Impacts
This workshop will provide an opportunity for collaboration among a number of early career
scientists, groups underrepresented in STEM disciplines, and Ethiopian scholars, including graduate
students. It will also set a new standard for scientific collaboration in paleoanthropology. A
component of this workshop will contribute to the NSF-supported PaleoCore project by helping to
synthesize and standardize geological mapping data that will and the creation of a template that can
be used by any other geological project.
Effective start/end date8/1/177/31/19


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $49,978.00


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