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Richard Potts

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Rick Potts in the field at Olorgesailie with a 900,000-year-old handaxe.

Title

Recent Publications

Locations

Long-Term Research
Global Change
Ecosystems

Paleoanthropologist Dr. Rick Potts directs the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where he holds the Peter Buck Chair in Human Origins. After receiving his PhD in biological anthropology at Harvard University in 1982, he taught at Yale before joining the Smithsonian in 1985. Rick’s research investigates Earth’s environmental dynamics and the processes that have led to human evolutionary adaptations. His ideas about the significant effect of environmental instability on human evolution have stimulated wide attention and new studies in the Earth sciences, paleontology, and experimental and computational biology. Rick leads ongoing excavations in the East African Rift Valley at fossil and archeological sites in southern and western Kenya, and in northern and southern China. He is curator of the Smithsonian’s Hall of Human Origins, and wrote the companion book What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Website:  http://www.HumanOrigins.si.edu

Programs

Human Origins Program: Research in Ol Pejeta, Kenya   Active

The Smithsonian’s Human Origins Project conducts field and lab research on the evolution of early human adaptations. Our key research partners are in East Africa and East Asia – especially in Kenya, China, and Indonesia. Our digs and studies in these regions, along with investigations by associates working in Ethiopia, Tanzania, India, Mozambique, among other countries, help generate scientific data on the long-term interaction of human ancestors with their surroundings.

Human Origins Program: Research in Olorgesailie, Kenya   Active

The Smithsonian’s Human Origins Project conducts field and lab research on the evolution of early human adaptations. Our key research partners are in East Africa and East Asia – especially in Kenya, China, and Indonesia. Our digs and studies in these regions, along with investigations by associates working in Ethiopia, Tanzania, India, Mozambique, among other countries, help generate scientific data on the long-term interaction of human ancestors with their surroundings.

Human Origins Program: Research in Kanjera, Kenya   Active

The Smithsonian’s Human Origins Project conducts field and lab research on the evolution of early human adaptations. Our key research partners are in East Africa and East Asia – especially in Kenya, China, and Indonesia. Our digs and studies in these regions, along with investigations by associates working in Ethiopia, Tanzania, India, Mozambique, among other countries, help generate scientific data on the long-term interaction of human ancestors with their surroundings.

Human Origins Program: Research in Kanam, Kenya   Active

The Smithsonian’s Human Origins Project conducts field and lab research on the evolution of early human adaptations. Our key research partners are in East Africa and East Asia – especially in Kenya, China, and Indonesia. Our digs and studies in these regions, along with investigations by associates working in Ethiopia, Tanzania, India, Mozambique, among other countries, help generate scientific data on the long-term interaction of human ancestors with their surroundings.

Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems (ETE) Program   Active

The Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Program (ETE) at the National Museum of Natural History investigates Earth's land biotas throughout their 400 million year history. Our goal is to understand how terrestrial ecosystems have been structured and how they change over geologic time. Using the fossil record, ETE scientists study the characteristics of ecological communities and the changing dynamics of ecosystems.

Human Origins Program: Olorgesailie Drilling Project   

In 2012, a team from the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program, led by paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, obtained the first long climate core from an early human fossil site.