Anthropogeny Tracks - Volume 8, Issue 2

Anthropogeny Tracks Cover

Welcome to the first digital issue of Anthropogeny Tracks!

As in the case of the best-laid plans this year, the CARTA staff also found ourselves adapting our daily work, symposia, and outreach to frequently changing conditions. We thank you for your indulgence as we navigate uncertain waters and refine our offerings to better share CARTA news with you.

For this reason, you will notice some changes to our format and distribution method in this newsletter (and as we continue to experiment), but we assure you that we remain committed to bringing you periodic updates regarding all things CARTA!

"Inside" CARTA's 2020 Year-end Round-up...


Editor's Letter

"Mass Extinction Event 5¾": A 2020 Retrospective

From K. Lindsay Hunter (CARTA Community Engagement & Advancement Director)

2020 Animals

Analogies to Mass Extinction Events are hardly the stuff of most holiday newsletters, though I think that we can all agree that, in terms of recorded human history, 2020 was [insert synonym of choice: unprecedented / unparalleled / incomparable] in many ways, so normal rules may not apply. Not only did 2020 strain hyperbole and credulity, but it was also the source of immense suffering for millions of humans worldwide.

To make some sense of the enormity of the challenges faced, a “Deep Time” perspective might be invoked to highlight our species’ ingenuity and resilience despite its frailty and catastrophic impact on the planet (e.g., the ongoing "Anthropocene Extinction"). Such a macrocosmic view, however, is of little comfort to those individuals represented by dire, yet sterile, statistics. To be both scientifically accurate and objective, while also sensitive and humane, has been a tightrope walked by almost every “doctor” whether that title is conferred by Ph.D. or by medical degree. And it is, perhaps, also emblematic of why we are so interested in this particular naked ape.

2020 extinguished or restrained many long-held and even cherished cultural practices, but the resulting "adaptive radiation" has led us to new or renewed ways of interacting, some of which will persist long past this year and its struggles pass behind the veil of History. For every new challenge and crisis has shown us something fresh about humans, this strange and contradictory creature, whose origins we pursue. Some of this self-knowledge was ugly and terrifying, some of it baffling, but much of it, I would argue, gives us good reason for hope.

From all of us at the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA), we hope that you will indulge us as we share the following update on explorations of the human phenomenon in this first online issue of Anthropogeny Tracks (Volume 8, Issue 2).

We look forward to having you join us again, healthy and safe, in the new year.



Awards & Honors

External Awards & Honors

The following external awards and honors were received by CARTA Members and shared with us since our last newsletter. You may learn more about each CARTA Member by clicking on their name to view their full CARTA profile. To update your own CARTA profile, login to the CARTA website (or create a new account) and click on "My Account" in the navigation.

Katerina Harvati

Katerina Harvati (University of Tübingen) was recently elected President of the European Society for the Study of Human Evolution (ESHE). Prof Harvati was also awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz prize by the Deutche Forschugnsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), which is the highest scientific award in Germany. The prize announcements by the DFG and the University of Tübingen.

Clark Larsen

Clark Larsen (The Ohio State University) was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020.

Carmel O'Shannessy

Carmel O'Shannessy (Australian National University) was awarded the Australian National University Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research.

Rafael Núñez

Rafael Núñez (UC San Diego) and three of his European colleagues were awarded 10 million Euros from the European Research Council to fund a 6-year study of the bio-cultural evolution of quantification.

Ajit Varki

Ajit Varki (CARTA co-director, UC San Diego) received the prestigious Rosalind Lornfeld Lifetime Achievement Award from The Society for Glycobiology.

Graduate Fellowships

It is CARTA's great pleasure to announce the awarding of the Annette Merle-Smith Fellowships and the CARTA Fellowships in Anthropogeny for 2020-21. Congratulations to all our scholars and thank you to our generous sponsors, especially Mrs Annette Merle-Smith, who have made their studies possible! You may learn more about each student by clicking on their name to view their full CARTA profile. To update your own CARTA profile, login to the CARTA website (or create a new account) and click on "My Account" in the navigation.

Read more about the history of these Fellowship Programs and browse our past awardees. We invite you to also learn more about UC San Diego's "Faculty of Anthropogeny," which includes CARTA members and local experts and offers the one-of-a-kind trans-disciplinary Graduate Specialization in Anthropogeny.

2020-2021 Annette Merle-Smith Fellows

Nico King

Nico King

Visual Arts
  Stephan Kaufold

Stephan Kaufold

Cognitive Science

2020-2021 CARTA Fellows

Jason Adams

Jason Adams

  Julia Adrian

Julia Adrian

Cognitive Science

Tanushree Agrawal

Tanushree Agrawal


  James Michaelov

James Michaelov

Cognitive Science

Tim Sainburg

Tim Sainburg


  Anne Yilmaz

Anne Yilmaz


Matthew Zaslansky

Matthew Zaslansky



CARTA-Inspired Publications

A fresh selection of CARTA-inspired publications submitted by CARTA Members, which also acknowledge somewhere within the publication CARTA's role in contributing to the research described. CARTA members are listed in bold.


Bogin, B. Patterns of Human Growth, 3rd ed. Cambridge studies in biological and evolutionary anthropology, 3rd. 2020.
Pobiner, BL. The zooarchaeology and paleoecology of early hominin scavenging. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews. 2020.


Saha, S, Siddiqui, S, Khan, N, Verhagen, A, Jiang, W, Springer, S, Ghosh, P, Varki, A. Controversies about the subcellular localization and mechanisms of action of the Alzheimer's disease-protective CD33 splice variant. Acta Neuropathol. 2019.
van den Heuvel, M, Scholtens, L, de Lange, S, Pijnenburg, R, Cahn, W, van Haren, N, Sommer, I, Bozzali, M, Koch, K, Boks, M, Repple, J, Pievani, M, Li, L, Preuss, TRilling, J. Evolutionary modifications in human brain connectivity associated with schizophrenia. Brain. 2019;142(12):3991-4002.
Wei, Y, de Lange, SC, Scholtens, LH, Watanabe, K, Ardesch, DJ, Jansen, PR, Savage, JE, Li, L, Preuss, TM, Rilling, JK, Posthuma, D, van den Heuvel, MP. Genetic mapping and evolutionary analysis of human-expanded cognitive networks. Nat Commun. 2019;10(1):4839.
Mansukoski, L, Hogervorst, E, Furlan, L, Galvez-Sobral, J, Brooke-Wavell, K, Bogin, B. Instability in longitudinal childhood IQ scores of Guatemalan high SES individuals born between 1941-1953. PLOS ONE. 2019.
Bryant, K, Glasser, M, Li, L, J. Bae, J, Jacquez, N, Alarcón, L, Fields, A, Preuss, T. Organization of extrastriate and temporal cortex in chimpanzees compared to humans and macaques. Cortex. 2019.
Namba, T, Vaid, S, Huttner, W. Primate neocortex development and evolution: Conserved versus evolved folding. J Comp Neurol. 2019;527(10):1621-1632.


Ask an Anthropogeny Expert

Ani Patel


Were you intrigued by Aniruddh Patel (Tufts University)'s talk, "Music and Gene-Culture Coevolution," during CARTA's virtual symposium, Comparative Anthropogeny: Exploring The Human-Ape Paradox on Oct. 24, 2020? Learn more about Prof Patel and his research into the cognitive, neural, and evolutionary foundations of music cognition in his interview published in Current Biology (Volume 30, Issue 23, PR1397-R1399).



Upcoming CARTA Symposia (2021)

Join CARTA in 2021 as we continue our physically distanced, yet engaging, online symposia, during which we explore the origin of humans and the implications for the past, present and future of our species. Detailed event and registration information is provided on each symposium page. All event times are Pacific. Download the 2021 CARTA symposia schedule (PDF).

Physical Activity

Altered States of the Human Mind

Saturday, March 13, 2021


UCSD Graduate Specialization in Anthropogeny

To celebrate the commencement of the Fall Quarter at UC San Diego, CARTA shone a spotlight on the Graduate Specialization Track in Anthropogeny at UC San Diego. In a Fall 2020 "Return to Learn" blog series, five senior Anthropogeny-track graduate students in fields at diverse as Neurosciences, Visual Arts, Linguistics, and Psychology (Machine Learning and Experimental) shared reflections on their CARTA experience.

Haleh Yazdi

Reflection from Experimental Psychology

Haleh Yazdi
  Tim Sainburg

Reflection from Psychology

Tim Sainburg

Nina Semushina

Reflection from Linguistics

Nina Semushina
  Vanessa Bateman

Reflection from Visual Arts

Vanessa Bateman

Catie Profaci

Reflection from Neurosciences

Catie Profaci

Learn more about how joining the Anthropogeny Specialization enriches participating graduate degrees at UC San Diego.


Spotlight on: Anthropogeny Education & Teaching Resources

SpotlightOsher/CARTA "Master Class I"

During Fall 2020, UC San Diego CARTA Members Margaret Schoeninger (CARTA Co-Director), Pascal Gagneux (CARTA Associate Director) Patricia Churchland, Federico Rossano, and Ajit Varki (CARTA Co-Director) shared their anthropogeny expertise with the community in the lecture series, "Master Class I," offered through UC San Diego Extension's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Check out the linked syllabus for resources and reading list with more session details.

Online Resource for Teaching During COVID-19

Submitted by CARTA Member Carol Ember (Yale University)

CARTA Member Carol Ember (President of the Human Relations Area Files, HRAF) shared, "In response to school closure of many colleges and universities due to the COVID-19 crisis, "HRAF and the transition to remote education: Online anthropology amid #CovidCampus" summarizes the open-access resources available from HRAF that can be used for online learning. In addition, for those institutions that are not members of eHRAF World Cultures or eHRAF Archaeology, we also are offering extended IP trials to both databases through the rest of the semester."

Coursera Class: "Chimpanzee behavior and conservation"

Submitted by CARTA Member Anne Pusey (Duke University)

This free online course offered by Duke University debuted in 2019 and ran during early 2020. The most recent class began on Dec. 14, 2020, and is ongoing.

About the course: "Chimpanzees are one of our closest living relatives, yet almost nothing was known about their behavior in the wild until Jane Goodall started her groundbreaking study of the chimpanzees of Gombe, Tanzania in 1960. This study continues today, following the same chimpanzee families that Jane Goodall first encountered over 55 years ago. Guided by three course instructors (including CARTA Member Anne Pusey, Duke University) who have lived and worked with the Gombe chimpanzees, you will learn how Goodall’s early discoveries changed our view of human uniqueness. By completing the course, you will gain a new appreciation of the deep similarities between chimpanzees and humans in intelligence, tool use, hunting, personality and social relationships, as well as some key differences. You will learn how chimpanzees interact with their environment and how their behavior is influenced by ecology, as well as the severe conservation challenges they face today. And you will employ your new knowledge of chimpanzees to construct a persuasive argument for their protection. This course is open to everyone interested in learning more about these fascinating and complex beings. Knowledge of high-school-level biology is beneficial but not required. Please keep in mind, however, that the content of this course will cover all aspects of chimpanzee life, including scientific discussion of sexual and aggressive behaviors."

Incorporating CARTA Talks in Your Teaching

Submitted by CARTA Member Teresa Steele (UC Davis)

You may be familiar with CARTA's symposia, but have you thought of incorporating them into your teaching? CARTA Member Teresa Steele (UC Davis) reports that she used CARTA talks on the "The Ecology of Hominin Scavenging" (by CARTA Member Briana Pobiner, Smithsonian Institution) and "The Origins of Modern Humans in Africa" (Brenna Henn, Stony Brook University) to support her online teaching of "African Prehistory" during Spring 2020.


CARTA Zoom Backgrounds

As CARTA's holiday gift to you, Program Coordinator, Jesse Robie, has crafted virtual backgrounds from beautiful photographs taken during CARTA's pre-pandemic field courses that you can download for FREE!

Thanks to CARTA staff Linda Nelson, Pascal Gagneux, Jesse Robie, and CARTA students Anupam Garg, Stephan Kaufhold and Megan Kirchgessner, for these images.

CARTA Zoom Backgrounds


Support CARTA

CARTA’s quest to explore and explain the human phenomenon is shared by many across the globe, and CARTA connects us all – scientists and philosophers, students and teachers, people with questions and others with answers. Through access to free UCSD-TV broadcasts and archived videos on multiple websites, the global CARTA community grows with each lecture that is experienced and passed forward. Help us preserve this free flow of information about what it means to be human. Consider a donation of $20, $35, $50 or more to keep CARTA’s symposia free to attend and view online.

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