2008 Patterson Memorial Grant Recipient
I entered Arizona State University pursuing a degree in history and exited with an additional degree in anthropology. The course work convinced me I was in love with paleoecological research. I was less convinced about the field work. A career involving months of camping had never been in any variation of my original plans. I decided the best way to determine whether or not I could live with several filthy people for weeks on end was to participate in a field school. In 2003 I went to Makapansgat on the Institute of Human Origin's South African Field School. Camping out with a ragtag group of students and spending my days poring over mammal bones I fell in love with field work. The experience also ignited my love of paleoecology. I realized I cared less about taxonomic names given to hominins and more about what they might have been doing in their environment and how they evolved.
Under the wonderful guidance of Kaye Reed I was directed to Curtis Marean's zooarchaeology lab. I spent my senior year ruining my eyesight on micromammals. Curtis offered me my second field opportunity as an excavator at Pinnacle Point Cave 13B in Mossel Bay, South Africa. Curtis was asking interesting environmental questions and using techniques that have influenced my graduate career. He encouraged using GIS not only to model the cave but to aid in building testable hypotheses to take to the field.
Applying for graduate school Kaye steered me toward Yale University and the work of Andrew Hill. My interests in biogeography, faunal change, climatic forcing and exploiting new technology to enhance research have been supported and nourished under his guidance. As part of the Baringo Paleontological Research Project I have been involved in field work in the Tugen Hills for the last three years. My dissertation research Faunal Shifts and Precessional Climatic Forcing in the Chemeron Formation, Tugen Hills, Kenya combines remotely sensed images, modern ecology, faunal analysis and of course time in the field. The majority of my research will take place in the National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi where our specimens are housed. Funding from the Bryan Patterson Memorial Grant will support additional field work in the Chemeron Formation to increase the sample size at each site during a poorly known time period. This project addresses questions about environmental impact on lineages during a critical time in hominin evolution. The interval between 2-3 Ma is one of marked change in our lineage with the emergence of two new genera, the first stone tools and the first butchery sites.
Photo courtesy of Emily Goble.