Human Evolution Linked to Climate Change?
It’s not a take on climate change we often hear about. However, one man believes the two are connected.
Mark Collard, a Simon Fraser University Canada Research Chair and professor of archaeology, will present research about how climate change impacts human evolution at the 2012 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference Feb. 16 to 20 at the Vancouver Convention Centre in downtown Vancouver.
The director of SFU’s Human Evolutionary Studies program, Collard will also present data that his research team is analyzing. Their research suggests environmental variation significantly influenced the number and intricacy of food-gathering tools that historical hunter-gatherers made.
Collard will give a talk called "Environmental Drivers of Technological Evolution in Small-scale Populations" during a seminar called Climate Change and Human Evolution: Problems and Prospects. Collard’s talk on Fri., Feb. 17 will kick off the seminar.
"We need to better understand the ways that climate and related environmental variables have affected historically-documented small-scale societies before we can accurately track the impact of climate change on human evolution,” Collard says and will likely restate at the seminar. "The basic pattern is that people living in harsh, risky environments, such as the Arctic, produced and used many more complex tools than people living in less harsh and risky environments, such as tropical rainforests. Food gathering tools make up a large part of known early archaeological records. So our findings are providing us with a way to track the impact of climate change on human evolution.”
Collard can relate his findings to current thinking about the impact of climate change on the dispersal of modern humans globally and the evolution of their cultures during the last couple of hundred thousand years. Our species, Homo sapiens, evolved during that time period.
As a discussant in another seminar, Constructing a Human World Fit for Nature, Collard will look for common themes in six speakers’ presentations. They will flesh out the research behind an evolutionary conundrum that is the central theme of this seminar.
The conundrum — while evolution has enabled ancestral hominins (humans) to adapt well to diverse ecological niches, modern humans are now transforming local ecosystems and the global climate at the peril of their own existence.