Question: How do they celebrate an important discovery?
Response: It’s exciting to make new discoveries in the field! Yet each new discovery brings with it a new batch of hard work. For some discoveries, we recognize there may be years of work ahead of us, in fact, and that might include cleaning and preparing specimens, collecting and analyzing data and then preparing publications of our findings. So, though new discoveries do call for celebration, those celebrations may involve getting back into the field or the lab to see what additional information we might uncover!
Question: What’s one important thing about their recent field experiences that they’d like the Smithsonian’s visitors to understand?
Response: There’s a lot of information that can be learned from field studies. One important thing to know is that field work is a collaborative effort and requires the contributions of many types of scientists. Our team comprises members with varied specialties and this is what allows us to draw conclusions about the lives and environments of our extinct hominin ancestors. To learn more about our field work, please visit our field blog.
Question: How many shots did you have to get for your trip?
Response: That’s a great question! The number and type of vaccinations depend on the countries where we travel. For fieldwork in Kenya, we typically receive vaccinations for diseases including, but not limited to, yellow fever, hepatitis (A and B), and typhoid. Many fieldworkers also take preventative medication for malaria.
Response: The term “lost link” or “missing link” is often used to imply that there is one single species that links the great apes (e.g., chimpanzees) and humans. What decades of paleoanthropological research now show is that there are many branches on the human family tree, and no one extinct species or fossil is the link between chimpanzees and modern humans. In fact, paleoanthropologists have made so many field discoveries that they have uncovered the remains of as many as 20 different fossil hominin species so far. Clearly, a lot has happened since the base of the human family tree split from that of the chimpanzee family tree between 6 and 8 million years ago. And there are many important fossils yet to discover.
Human Origins Program Staff, Smithsonian Institution