Promoting education and research in Geology, Archaeology, Anthropology, Energy and Environmental Sciences.
|Support for Research|
A major exhibit held in Fall, 2000, reflects ISEM's support for the study of archaeology and its support for multidisciplinary educational efforts directed at elementary school students. Sacred Space: Man and the Divine in Mexico, Central America, and the Southwestern United States features photo murals of the sacred landscapes and ceremonial architecture of the ancient and modern people of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and the American Southwest. The exhibit is accompanied by text from ISEM-affiliated scholars and with English- and Spanish-language educational materials for fifth- through seventh-grade students.
Research in Israel and Dallas, coordinated by the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man, is fundamentally changing our understanding of the evolution of snakes. Standing on the strength of two tiny legs, this evidence shows that snakes may have evolved first on land and only later entered the sea.
Studying a 95-million-year-old snake found near 'Ein Yabrud in Israel, SMU paleontologists Dr. Louis Jacobs and Michael Polcyn are comparing the anatomy of the snake, Haasiophis, with mosasaurshuge swimming reptiles thought by some to be linked with snakes evolutionarilyand with a modern group of snakes, including boas and anacondas.
Although Haasiophis shares some characteristics of both mosasaurs and modern snakes, the SMU paleontologists believe the fossil evidence shows a much closer tie to the more modern snakes and, therefore, to an evolutionary trail starting first on land, not in the water.
The study of Haasiophis is just part of the work underway at 'Ein Yabrud. Jacobs, Polcyn and colleagues from Israel, Chicago and Brazil are also conducting a detailed analysis of mosasaurs and other animals living at the site at the same time as Haasiophis.
ISEM also supports work by Dr. Lewis Binford and Dr. Fred Wendorf on the use of the Bryson Paleoclimate Models in archaeological research. The aim of this research is to enhance the understanding of the past climates of the earth and how humans and other life forms have been affected by climate change. ISEM and the Cecil & Ida Green Foundation are providing funding for this research.
The issue of global climate change occupies a great deal of public attention and is the focus of one of ISEM's research initiatives. In the public discourse, disproportionately little attention is paid to the very long term study of the earth's climate the documentation of what in fact the climate has been over thousands, tens of thousands, tens of millions and hundreds of millions of years. We know the history of global climate has been one of great variation, but the character of that variation and its impact on life forms is a vital part of the issue.
The Institute's close association with the Departments of Geological Sciences and Anthropology at SMU places us in a favorable position to direct more attention to the long-term study of climate change. In 1997, with counsel from these two departments, ISEM began an effort to support studies to accomplish this. A collaboration is currently underway with Professor Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin, a pioneering climatologist, his son Dr. Robert Bryson, and a team of archaeologists from SMU led by Professors Lewis Binford and Fred Wendorf to develop backward-looking comprehensive climate models which have the prospect of backcasting the earth's climate up to 40,000 years.
Dr. Reid Bryson has pioneered in developing paleoclimatic models. The Brysons and SMU archaeologists are working to improve these pioneering models. They will be used in archaeological research which will enhance our understanding of the dynamics between climate change and life processes. Dr. Binford and his team are now including additional environmental factors to improve the model's usefulness and global applicability. Another complimentary goal is to make such improved models accessible to archaeological researchers. This research is provoking scientists to consider the dynamics between the natural environment and the movements of past human populations across the landscape. The archaeological research will be enhanced by the climate models, it will also be a validation of those models. Ultimately, this work can inform our understanding of climate change and current dynamics between the natural environment and human populations.
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|Hedberg Award in Energy|
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