Thursday, September 24, 2009

Human Evolution: An Overview

Lawrence Nzuve

Kitale outreach Program was by far the largest of the programs that the Prehistory club has undertaken in recent past. So huge was the attendance the organizers had to arrange for two groups after the Kitale Museum auditorium could not contain the young science enthusiasts drawn from a record ten secondary schools!

The main speaker Dr Fredrick Manthi,Senior Research Scientist, National Museums of Kenya, Earth Science Department, Paleontology Section, Post-doctoral Fellow Turkana Basin Institute, Stony Brook University, New York. gave his lecture on ‘Human Evolution: An Overview’, which is the common lecture being given to secondary schools across the country. He discussed the topics of human origins and evolution; the major characteristics that defined the genus Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Homo. He discussed the role of Charles Darwin in the understanding of species origins and evolution including the role of adaptation for survival as the key factor that led to evolution. The Lamarck’s theory of ‘use and disuse’ was also discussed as a likely factor that cause evolution too. Dr. Manthi compared and contrasted the differences and similarities between the early humans ancestors in a chronological order from the oldest to the modern man. Methods of dating were also an ingredient in his presentation. In both sessions, Dr. Manthi commended the good work done by the Prehistory Club and praised the Leakey Foundation for sponsoring this outreach program.

Keen students: this was by far the largest turnout witnessed in recent past

The second speaker, Dr. Alfreda Ibui also stood to the podium to present a very inspiring topic on ‘Environments and Humankind'. In her well illustrated power point presentation, Dr Ibui discussed the role of the environments towards evolution including the present and past importance of forests as a source of food, medicine, shelter/protection, beauty etc to the human ancestors. Other scenarios that shaped the direction of humans’ evolution included droughts, earthquakes and volcanoes were also looked into. Lastly she highlighted the evidences of early mans’ use of plants parts for food, medicine, shelter etc.

Dr. Manthi on one on one with the students: the outreach was a total success

Students and their teachers asked questions regarding humans’ origins and evolution. Dr. Manthi clarified on the minimum requirements one requires to undertake courses on Earth Sciences including paleontology, archaeology and geology. As usual the participants were urged to plant a minimum of one tree each as a way of reducing the effects of pollution and to live in harmony with one another as members of the same species so as to ensure that humans as species, have a future. The teachers commended the Leakey Foundation for sponsoring this outreach program which is helping them to answer most of the challenging questions they face daily in their line of duty while teaching prehistory.

Schools presented included Mt. Elgon Girls High School,Manor House High School, Green Fields Girls School,Weaver Bird High School,St. Joseph Girls High School, Masaba Friends Secondary School,St. Johns Sirende Secondary School;Crane’s Academy,Mt. Emoru Secondary School and St. Columba’s Secondary School. Accompanying Dr. Manthi were Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Earth Sciences, paleontology section Dr. Alfreda Ibui and Mr. Francis Ndiritu, Operations and Public affairs, Prehistory Club of Kenya who was in charge of photography and other logistics

We thank the Leakey Foundation for ably sponsoring this Outreach Program.