Posts Tagged ‘project’

DeforestACTION Orangutan Outreach

// March 25th, 2011 // Comments Off on DeforestACTION Orangutan Outreach // Science Communication

I’d like to draw your attention to an exciting global action project against deforestation and saving orangutan habitats.

DeforestACTION are sending ten young adults to Borneo to raise awareness about habitat destruction. They will be living in the jungle for five months, saving apes, replanting trees, basically making a phenomenal difference to a struggling ecosystem. Then they’re making a 3D movie about it, I hope it’s as cool as Avatar.

My friend Amelia is applying for the job, and I wanted to share her video with you. I just love the music and animation.

She is the perfect person for the job. I studied Science Communication with her last year, as we traveled around Australia performing science outreach shows for school kids. Like me, she’s done interactive video conferencing with schools. While I was grooving as Anna Tomy, a model skeleton with a Russian accent, she was a savvy crime-solving forensic detective. I lived with her for a month on the road, until we were pretty much the same person. So if you vote for her, you’re really voting for me. Thanks buddy!

She’s even been to Borneo before to help at an orangutan sanctuary. I remember her describing one morning, running with her arms full of bananas while the apes followed, swinging behind and above. When she deposited the food on the platform, trying to minimize human interaction, one of the little ones walked up and put his hand in hers. I swear, she’s like an earth spirit.

View all the applicants here, scroll down to the login section and vote for your fav. It’s a good year for it, 2011 being the International Year of Forests and all. Here’s your chance to make a difference (by voting for Amelia Swan.)

Genographics, Neanderthals and Cannibalism, an Interview with Carles Lalueza-Fox

// December 8th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Recent Research, Science Communication, Sex and Reproduction

After the event last night about the worldwide Genographic Project, I caught up with Prof Dr Carles Lalueza‑Fox, the first speaker on the night, for a quick interview. He’s an expert on Neanderthals, or Neandertals I think we call them now. Named after the Neander Valley where the first specimen was discovered.

What first sparked your interest in studying Neandertals?

When the first Neandertal sequence was retrieved in 1997 I had been working on ancient DNA for a while, but then Neandertals seemed to be something in a different league.

In the first ten years it was only possible to get mitochondrial DNA from Neandertals.

For me, I really liked Neandertals and human evolution as a child. Ancient DNA was something particularly difficult at the time, and the thing that brought me to the subject.

How human do you think Neandertals were?

How human?

Yes, tricky question.

Haha, yes. It’s a very long question, a very difficult question. One must always take into mind our tendencies are always fluctuating. We saw them as a very primitive human lineage in the early 20th Century, but I’d say that now we’re turning to the point where we see them as very similar to us.

Maybe the best thing to think about Neandertals is they are more different from us than any modern human to any other modern human. That’s the way we should think about them.

If we want to think of them as a different species that’s fine for me, but there is a range of difference between us and the Neandertals.

The cuts found along Neandertal bones you suggest are evidence for cannibalism. Could they just be an example of de-fleshing prior to burial?

Well, yeah, it might be right in some circumstances. But this is not only cutting, you know de-fleshing the bones. It’s also fragmenting the bones with small stone tools, very small fragments, and even the skull, and the faces. For me it’s very difficult to think that this kind of post mortem activity is something more because this is a complete destruction of the bones.

It’s very similar to what we see in other sites with fauna, the bones are broken to extract the marrow in the same way.

And it’s a pretty common thing, well, not common these days, but certainly we humans have our own history of cannibalism.

Yes, well there are several sites with the signs in Neandertals. But you almost think that life was very tough and they were structured in very small groups, so the fact that you find another one… I mean you’d say “hey, we are Neandertals all of us,” but I’d say that’s a modern conception.

Whereas for them it might be “hey, you’re not one of my family I may as well eat you.”

Yeah, the idea of humankind, in fact, is very recent. After the second World War, and the UNESCO thing. So even the idea of humankind is more recent than we might think now.

And what do you think of the possibility of Neandertals and humans mating?

I think it’s plausible with the data we have. It was probably something that was a minority, restricted in time and space, it was nothing important in my view. The thing is we can detect it now in non-African modern humans is because this was an expanding population, so even a small event of just a few, say it was, this was amplified later on.

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