Building and interpreting the Plio-Pleistocene fossil record

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

For over 75 years, fossil discoveries and research in South Africa within the region locally known as the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ have shaped our understanding of the origins of humans and other mammal species. As part of this tradition of investigating the early history of South Africa, Dr Justin Adams (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia) has spent the last 17 excavating a series of Cradle fossil sites to explore questions of how the fossil record forms, palaeoecology, and the diversity of faunal communities. In this talk, Dr Adams will present a brief introduction and history of the South African fossil record, and the role of ongoing research and discoveries for understanding human evolution, modern African ecology and mammal communities. He will also discuss aspects of analysis methods being employed to address palaeontological research questions and promote international research collaborations.

Dr Adams has an interdisciplinary background in human and comparative anatomy and mammal palaeobiology while leading field and lab research teams over the past 17 years. He has published over 40 peer-reviewed papers and led 16 competitive internal and external grants since 2002 across research in palaeontology, 3D printing, and comparative anatomy. He is a world recognised expert in the anatomy and evolution of African mammals, including leading faunal analysis at several fossil human sites in South Africa and in the applications of imaging and 3D methods in the discipline. His research and publication background in applications of quantitative 3D morphometrics and advanced imaging (CT, μCT, MRI, surface scanning) analysis and interpretation has been central to the methods that underpin the creation of the Monash CHAE 3D printing anatomy series and other initiatives since he joining Monash University in 2013. He has served as the Deputy Director of the Centre for Human Anatomy Education since 2014 and currently coordinates anatomy instruction for the graduate-entry medical program of the Monash School of Rural Health.