Geological and Paleoanthropological Data Harmonization Workshop

Project: Research project

Project Details


Geological and Paleoanthropological Data Harmonization Workshop Collaborative Geological Field Review of Paleoanthropological Sites in the Lower Awash Valley, Ethiopia Collaborative Geological Field Review of Paleoanthropological Sites in the Lower Awash Valley, Ethiopia Project Summary Overview 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 boundaries. 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 questions. 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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