Keynote Lectures

Discovering Homo naledi — Designing social media into fieldwork projects

John Hawks – Vilas Borghesi Distinguished Achievement Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Rising Star Expedition in South Africa made headlines around the world for the major fossil discoveries, the incredible difficulty of the excavation circumstances, and the remarkable teamwork. The team integrated social media at several levels into the fieldwork, including on-site videos, Skype appearances in schools internationally, blogs from the site, Twitter and Facebook. That public outreach had an enormous effect on the fieldwork and following research agenda, and has helped produce two major museum exhibitions of the fossils, a documentary, and a book.

Animals Who Love and Grieve: The Anthropology of Animal Emotions

Barbara J. King – Chancellor Professor of Anthropology, College of William & Mary

This illustrated talk focuses on the recent upsurge into scientific claims for the expression of emotions, particularly love and grief, in nonhuman animals, including monkeys and apes, elephants and cetaceans, farmed animals, and companion animals. How does an anthropologist immersed in this topic–in real life and on social media– deal with charges of anthropomorphism, and with the anthropological wisdom that in many ways humans are genuinely unique in our emotional capacities?

Human Reproduction and Darwinian Medicine: Communicating with a General Readership

Robert Martin – Curator Emeritus, Field Museum

Broad comparisons across primates, often including other animal groups as well, are essential for a proper understanding of human evolution. Because culture has exerted an extensive impact on human reproduction, such comparisons provide a much-needed basis for inferring biological adaptations. This is particularly true of reproductive biology, as very little can be learned about this topic from the fossil record. Combining a comprehensive review of primate reproductive biology with results from epidemiological surveys and other studies of human reproduction permits inference of key features of the evolutionary background. This, in turn, yields conclusions that can feed into Darwinian Medicine  —  a relatively young discipline that aims to extract lessons from evolutionary biology for the interpretation of human health and disease. This presentation will discuss selected examples in the context of writing for a general readership, using social media as an essential component.

Breakout Sessions

March Mammal Madness – Twitter as a Tool for Teaching and Outreach

Marc Kissel – Lecturer, Appalachian State University
Katie Hinde – Associate Professor, Arizona State University

Prof. Katie Hinde created March Mammal Madness to provide a fun, exciting means to spread scientific knowledge about the competing animals, as well as awareness for animal conservation. March Mammal Madness is an annual simulated single elimination tournament created by scientists to educate and delight.  It is run by a team of anthropologists and evolutionary biologists, using science and probability to determine fight outcomes. The tournament is modeled after the NCAA championship, including an Elite Eight and a Final Four.  March Mammal Madness just completed its fifth season, and has grown to encompass thousands of players from around the world, used in many classrooms for engaged learning. The battles are decided by a mix of scientific research and element of chance. Prof. Hinde and the Mammal March Madness organizing team do in-depth research on the mammal contestants. Temperament, diet, social behavior, environment, size, and fight style are just a few of the factors that are taken into consideration to develop the seed, or rank, of each mammal. Then a 100-sided die is rolled with a determined percentage numbers attributed to each animal. This adds an element of chance, since out in nature nothing is 100% guaranteed.  

We need an app for that: The importance of baseline data and the need for tablet-based technology

Anna Osterholtz – Assistant Professor, Mississippi State University

Tablet-based recording has become more widely used in the past few years, including the application of mapping software as well as site recording and photography. But this methodology has not been very effectively employed in the recording of human remains. Added to this is a genuine need for a minimal set of data to be collected, particularly in the analysis of commingled and disarticulated human remains. The need for consistent recording standards would be greatly aided by readily available mechanisms such as tablet-based apps. This presentation will present a framework for a recording standard for commingled and disarticulated remains. This will focus on a minimal level of information that would provide baseline data regardless of the nature of the assemblage (e.g., massacre, ossuary) or the commingling (e.g., accretional, intentional, or lab or museum). Developed over the years first as an Access database, now a Filemaker database, and hopefully soon to be developed into a more available platform that would allow for in-field recording that would upload to a cloud-based server for dissemination to all project members and provide for a paper-free project environment that will minimize data entry errors and maximize analysis of the collected data.

Time to Go Big(foot)! Unconventional outreach opportunities for bringing science to the public

Natalia Reagan – film maker, science educator, Boas Network
Todd Disotell – Professor, New York University

Scientists typically engage in public outreach through articles in science oriented outlets such as museum and other public lectures, podcasts, blog posts, and other forums that reach respectably large audiences of people who are already generally interested in science. However to reach much larger audiences, in the hundreds of thousands to millions, scientists might consider bringing their research to popular entertainment venues such as television and internet shows where their research will have further reach to audiences that weren’t originally seeking out scientific understanding. This is a way for scientists to escape our echo chamber and advance science literacy on a broader scale. Through careful wording, humor, and discussion that does not lose the audience, even complicated scientific concepts can be explained.