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paleoanthropology, genetics and evolution

Photo Credit: Rising Star Expedition campsite at dawn. John Hawks CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

Paleoanthropologists wanted for Rising Star Workshop

Many people all over the world followed the Rising Star Expedition as excavation proceeded through November of last year. If you haven’t checked it out, the project blog at the National Geographic website gives a great sampling of the experience.

Now after bringing more than 1200 numbered hominin specimens out of the cave, we are turning to the analysis of the fossil sample. This is an enormous task, which begins with basic osteology, finding out which parts may go together and describing the anatomy of the collection in comparison with known fossil hominins.

Many projects would allocate years to this task, in the meantime allowing only a small group of people to examine the fossils as work was underway.

We are going to do things differently. We are looking to recruit a large group of early career scientists to carry out the work during a five-week-long workshop. We intend to turn out high quality work promptly so that we can advance the science done both inside and outside the project. Members of the team will work together to generate the first publications on this exceptional fossil sample.

The advertisement:

The University of the Witwatersrand, through the Centre of Excellence in PalaeoSciences and the Evolutionary Studies Institute will be holding a unique workshop to study and describe recently discovered fossil early hominin material for a series of high impact publications. It is intended that the Workshop will be held in South Africa from early May until the first week of June 2014.
We are seeking early career scientists with data and skill sets applicable to the study of any part of the anatomy of early hominins. Participants must be willing to share these data and skills in a collaborative workshop designed to study, describe and publish these important hominin fossils.
The intent of the workshop is to give a unique opportunity to early career scientists to participate in the primary description of African early hominin material. Applicants must be able to attend the entirety of the workshop. Successful applicants will have all travel and accommodation costs covered, be given access to existing comparative fossils, modern material and all data sets and receive mentoring throughout the process from senior established scientists.
Output will include authorship on at least one high impact paper as well as continued collaboration and authorship on future research to which he/she contributes. Interested applicants should submit their CV’s, a brief summary of their skills or data sets that would be applicable to such a project (not to exceed 1500 words), and provide three letters of support from established scientists in the field.
Applications should be sent directly to Professor Lee R. Berger at risingstarworkshop@gmail.com and copied to his assistant Wilma.Lawrence@wits.ac.za. Please make the subject line "Rising Star Workshop 2014".

The fossil material is an exceptional sample representing most of the parts of the skeleton, and our first task is to describe the material and place it into the context of hominin evolution.

Several people have already contacted me to ask what kind of information they should include in their applications. My advice is simple: Be very clear about your experience and the datasets you can bring to the project. We are not that interested in your pedigree or your advisor, we want to know what you bring to the table. We are recruiting an international team, and we are especially interested in building a group that will continue to produce great science in the future.