Coffee Hour: What's for dinner? Molecular signatures of plants, animals and water in early human habitats

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Time: 
Friday, February 21, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Place: 
3:30 p.m. Refreshments are offered in the E. Willard Miller seminar room, 319 Walker Building 4:00 p.m. The lecture begins in the John J. Cahir Auditorium, 112 Walker Building

What's for dinner?  Molecular signatures of plants, animals and water

in early human habitats



About the talk

About 2 million years ago, numerous human ancestors lived in the catchment of an ancient lake at Oldvuai Gorge, Tanzania. Today, molecular signatures or biomarkers of ancient plants are well preserved in the paleolake sediments and soils. Our studies of these molecules, and the stable isotope signatures they carry, reveal a diversity of the habitat both spatially and over time for the Olduvai landscape. My talk will highlight the detective work needed to understand biomarker and isotope signals of plants and water in the past, and what they tell us about environmental resources such as water, food, and shelter available to our forebears. 


Suggested reading

• Ecosystem variability and early human habitats in eastern Africa PDF

• Water, plants, and early human habitats in eastern Africa PDF


About the speaker
Kate FreemanKatherine H. Freeman is a professor of geosciences in the Department of Geosciences in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State. Her research interests include:
organic geochemistry, isotopic biogeochemistry, paleoclimate, and astrobiology. She is a recipient of the the Wilson Award for Excellence in Research by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and
was elected to membership in the US National Academy of Sciences in 2013. She is a co-editor of Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

geography@psu.edu (Angela Rogers)