Collaborative Research: REU Site: Past and Present Human-Environment Dynamics

Project: Research project

Project Details


The project is jointly funded by the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites program. It has both scientific and societal benefits and integrates research with education. The collaborative Research Experience for Undergraduates: Past, Present and Human-Environment Dynamics program builds on the success of the Koobi Fora Research and Training Program (KFRTP) and will develop a new framework for integrated training and research in anthropology, archaeology, geology, human biology and ethnoarchaeology. Humans have been interacting with changing environments for thousands of years. For communities that live in remote and resource poor ecosystems, environmental changes present life-threatening challenges. Changes in subsistence practices in the past have allowed humans to adapt to environmental changes. These subsistence changes have also had a dramatic impact on the ecosystems that humans lived in with consequences for the health of communities that live in remote habitats. This project will train 3 cohorts of 8 students from diverse backgrounds (including in service teachers) that will learn a variety of transferable STEM skills to investigate the intersection of human behavior and environmental change. Multiple mentorship contexts will allow students to learn skills in a supportive and collaborative environment. This project will focus on student support and the development of cohorts who will investigate critical components of the interaction of humans and their environments. Each student will: 1) generate new knowledge by designing and conducting an original research project with leading international human biologists and archaeologists, 2) collect and analyze data using state-of-the-art methods, 3) synthesize and present the findings at follow-up workshops and professional development seminars in the U.S., and 4) engage in training on the public understanding of science with outreach coordinators at the American Museum of Natural History (New York).

This REU project will recruit at least 24 US-undergraduate students nationwide- focusing on students underrepresented in STEM fields. A portion of our students will be involved in a Research Experience for Teachers and use this experience to develop school curricula. Our project will focus the interaction between humans and shifting ecosystem dynamics in the past and present. Specifically, we will investigate the following questions: How do present and past populations react to changing ecological pressures? 2)What was the impact of different subsistence strategies on the ecosystem? 3) How do current communities interact with their environment to meet their water and food needs and what are the impacts of this on nutritional status, hydration status, and health outcomes? 4) How have different populations used shifting patterns of mobility and land use to address these ecological and subsistence challenges? Investigating these questions will form the basis of interdisciplinary training. Trainees will gain a series of widely applicable skills as they gain a holistic perspective on the interface between changing environmental parameters and human adaptations in a tropical arid region. Student research will be incorporated into ongoing public outreach and youth initiative programs at the AMNH. The associated RET component will help develop learning modules for K-12 students that emphasize the time transgressive nature of behavioral and biological adaptations to rapidly changing habitats. This project will help document the health and water issues of ~12,000 community members who are currently under-served and present results to county and national level organizations. This project will provide undergraduate students with a unique, holistic training opportunity on a collaborative field research project.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date9/15/198/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $84,621.00


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