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How did Environmental Change Shape Human Evolution?

Join the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences for a public presentation by Kay Behrensmeyer, this year's Klepser Scholar.

Behrensmeyer will discuss patterns of environmental change in the East Africa Rift Valley over the last few million years and how these changes have influenced the course of early human evolution. Data will be drawn from Behrensmeyer's 40+ years of fieldwork in the region where she did pioneering work on fossilization and how to interpret biases associated with the process of fossilization.  

The McClung Museum is proud to collaborate with the department for this program.

Anna Katherine (Kay) Behrensmeyer is a Research Curator and Senior Scientist in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.  She is recognized as a pioneer in taphonomy, and her research is broadly aimed at understanding the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems over the past 300+ million years.  Behrensmeyer’s career has been inspired by collaborative field projects in North America, Africa, and Pakistan, ranging up and down the geological time column from the Triassic to the Pleistocene.  She has explored temporal versus spatial averaging in the fossil record and contributed concepts such as “isotaphonomy” and “taphonomic control fossils.”  She designed methods for sampling paleontological sites aimed at understanding taphonomic biases, with a particular focus on how these affect the record of human evolution.  Behrensmeyer’s research in modern ecosystems has advanced knowledge of taphonomic processes that alter and recycle organic remains. Her 40+ year study of the “taphosystem” of Amboseli Park, Kenya, shows how changing ecological processes affect links between the living, the dead, the buried and fossilized. She is a leader of the Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems (ETE) Program and an active contributor to NMNH exhibits and outreach efforts, including her present role as lead scientist for the Deep Time Initiative. 

Behrensmeyer has also recieved several major professional awards including:

  • 2016: Raymond C. Moore Medal of the Society for Sedimentary Geology
  • 2018: Romer-Simpson Medal of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
  • 2018: Paleontological Society Medal
  • 2019: G. K. Warren Prize, US National Academy of Sciences

Friday, September 6, 2019 at 6:00pm

Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture
1327 Circle Park, Knoxville, TN 37996

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations




Current Students, Faculty & Staff, Alumni, General Public

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