Virtual Science Café: Ancient Hobbits, Fungus-Farming Ants, and Tracking Volcanoes
This Zoom webinar with scientists Kadie Bennis, Elizabeth Grace Veatch, and Emilia Zoppas de Albuquerque aired April 19, 2022. Watch a recording in the player above.
Get a taste for some of the unique Smithsonian research and discoveries related to wonders big and small. Unwind at this virtual science café as you learn about the lives of "Hobbit" hominin, ants who farm, and the epicenter for volcano 411. The short talks are:
"Tracking and Fact Checking Eruptions with Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program," by Kadie Bennis
When a volcanic eruption makes the news, the headlines can be equally as explosive. But the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program (GVP), an internationally recognized online database and nexus for volcanic activity and reporting of the last 10,000 years, gets to information beyond the surface to provide accurate real time and archived information. Kadie Bennis, Volcano Data Researcher, shares how GVP tracks and investigates the often messy trail of volcanic activity around the world.
"Rats for Elevenses: What a 'Hobbit' Hominin Can Tell Us About Early Human Diets and Environments," by Elizabeth Grace Veatch
Ever wonder why humans are the only surviving hominin species today? It’s true! There once were dozens of human species, some even living at the same time as modern humans. One small-bodied hominin even made it to the island of Flores in Indonesia and survived until around 50,000 years ago at a site called Liang Bua. So, what was life like on this isolated island in Southeast Asia? Zooarchaeologist Elizabeth Grace Veatch analyzed thousands of murine (rat) and other faunal remains to better understand the paleoecology of the area and what kinds of animals’ humans were consuming.
"Fungus-Farming Ants: One of Earth’s First Farmers and Why They Matter," by Emilia Zoppas de Albuquerque
Turns out ants, not humans, could be The Original Farmer. Agriculture, once thought of as a hallmark of human evolution, can now be traced to various species of ants, each collectively cultivating a food source. When and where did this behavior occur and what climatic conditions prevailed to influence this adaptation? Emilia Zoppas de Albuquerque, researcher at the National Museum of Natural History’s AntLab, shares how what she calls "evolutionary novelties" open significant niches to a species in a given habitat, making the way for these Neotropical ants to farm fungus and achieve their greatest diversity in Amazonian rainforests.