Field Notes: Taking Research On the Road
Students in Peter Ungar and Steven Beaupre’s summer course — Tanzania: Ecology, Evolution & Peoples of East Africa — scoured the ground for fossils at the Olduvai Gorge this week before heading to Gombe Stream National Park to study chimpanzees in the footsteps of Jane Goodall.
The U of A reaches around the globe this summer as researchers take their classrooms and laboratories on the road in search of answers.
Ungar, chair of the Department of Anthropology, and Beaupre, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, combined forces to mix studies in ecology, evolution and anthropology in a four-week study abroad program.
The program focuses on the biodiversity of Tanzania as a way to understand the mechanisms of organic evolution, as well as how the East African Rift System and paleoclimate change impacted human evolution in the expansive Olduvai Gorge, where remains of the first hominin were found in 1959.
“Learning about fossils and early human archaeology at Olduvai Gorge….” Ungar wrote in an email. “Best teaching laboratory in the world.”
Meanwhile, on another continent, Rachel Opitz, research associate for the Center for Advanced Spacial Technologies is in Cyprus, working at an excavation site where her team will do 3-dimensional modeling of excavation sites. Later she’ll be in Italy and Greece laser-scanning and modeling ancient ruins.
Other researchers are collecting data in Saskatchewan, studying slime molds in the Phillipines and identifying fungi in the Netherlands. They are chasing mud-dwelling snakes in Singapore and studying climate changes in the Amazon.
Closer to home, archeologists are excavating an ancient Mississippian village in eastern Arkansas. Engineers will test soil layering and density around bridges to determine viability in earthquakes. And scientists are wading into swamps to collect snakes and tromping across the plains in search of Bobwhite quail. Meanwhile, agricultural engineers will gather data in rice fields on carbon emissions and water use, while work on cancer cures, nanotechnology and more continues here on campus.
And that is just the beginning. Join us on our Field Notes page for pictures, videos, guest columns and more news from the field throughout the summer.