Workshop: Evolutionary Mechanisms Beyond the Basics: Envisioning Complex Processes in Hominin Evolution

As educators and science communicators, biological anthropologists are typically adept at explaining the fundamental details of molecular genetics, Mendelian inheritance, and the primary forces of evolution. Although mastery of these basic concepts is necessary for embarking on all evolutionary inquiries, this level of explanation is insufficient for parsing and elucidating the convoluted events and evolutionary processes that span hundreds of thousands – let alone millions – of years.

Workshop participants will explore evolutionary mechanisms in greater depth. Full-group discussions and break-out group activities will foster collaboration among participants to develop strategies for incorporating these more complex understandings into human evolution courses and research programs. Topics will include (but are not limited to) epigenetics, lateral gene transfer, adaptive mutability, and techniques for addressing synergistic effects between multiple evolutionary forces and mechanisms. Participants are encouraged to share – with the session organizer in advance, and/or with all during the session – relevant examples from their own research, readings, and experiences. In-session objectives include: developing a list of relevant evolutionary mechanisms, establishing clear definitions and real-world examples for each, discussing how each might relate to hominin evolution and what each might look like in the genetic and fossil records, and brainstorming strategies for addressing these topics in classrooms and research projects.

Longer-term goals include: establishing a network of colleagues interested in ongoing communication on these issues, development (and sharing) of classroom and laboratory activities for engaging with these topics, and compilation (and sharing) of a bibliography of pertinent literature.

VIRTUAL ONLY: Friday, March 22, 2024, 12:15-2:15pm PDT

Organized by Andrea Alveshere (Western Illinois University)