Date(s) - February 18, 2019
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Separating signal from noise in human evolution
using quantitative methods
Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago
How do we address fundamental questions in the study of human origins with a fossil record that is fragmentary and imperfect? My research uses quantitative methods to study and account for the biases in the fossil record when examining the ecological context of and evolutionary patterns in human evolution. Specifically, this talk will examine how the tens of thousands of years represented in fossil mammal assemblages potentially skews the ecological information contained therein. I will then test a recent hypothesis that the species Australopithecus sediba was ancestral to our genus, Homo, by analyzing the temporal distribution of their fossils. I conclude with future research plans, which will use food web analyses to understand when ancient humans began to first disrupt their ecological communities, a trait that continues to define our species today. These three topics represent longstanding questions in human evolution that define what it means to be human, and they address where our species came from and where is it going in the future.
About the Speaker
Andrew Du is currently a postdoctoral scholar at The University of Chicago, and he did his graduate work at The George Washington University. His research interests are diverse but center around large-scale questions in human evolution, including understanding how time-averaging distorts the ecological signals found within fossil assemblages, and studying fossil hominin morphological trends and temporal distributions through time. These topics require the analysis of patterns generated by complex processes, so he uses advanced quantitative toolkits to effectively address these research questions.