Opinion: The Hobbit took our breath away: now it’s the new normal
Way back in 2004 Homo floresiensis was the discovery that threatened to rewrite the textbooks and the one that took every anthropologist’s breath away, wrires Darren Curnoe.
UNSW PANGEA is a multi-disciplinary research group comprising one of the largest university research facilities of its kind in Australia. The Centre houses research expertise in many key areas of the 'palaeosciences' and related Earth and Environmental sciences.
Many biologists and ecologists are engaged in research about living organisms and communities on timescales of at most a few decades, and all of which have been affected by human activity. There is, therefore, a pressing need to understand the range of natural variability of earth and biological systems in order to enhance our capacity to discriminate natural cycles from recent human-induced perturbations.
A deep time perspective – encompassing timeframes of thousands, millions or even billions of years – provides this through its emphasis on understanding how the Earth functioned prior to human impacts as well as the complex and synergistic interplay between the evolution of the lithosphere, biosphere and atmosphere.
PANGEA research aims to understand the range of natural variability of complex earth and biological systems, enhancing our capacity to discriminate natural cycles from recent human perturbations.
The inter-linkages between the evolution of the Earth and landscapes and emergence and diversification of life is a major focus of research by PANGEA researchers.
All of this is the 'palaeosciences' perspective, and it opens windows onto conditions, worlds and systems that no longer exist, providing insights into the Earth’s systems prior to human disruption. And, in doing so, it offers new insights into a range of critical areas with practical consequence – like species and ecological community conservation, landscape and resource use and management, and even human health – as well as providing understanding that touches us all deeply in our shared curiosity about life’s and Earth’s past.
Not to neglect the important role humans have played in the more recent phase of Earth's history, PANGEA also undertakes research into the biological, cultural and behavioural origins of humankind back to the earliest hominins as well as understanding ancient and recent human and environmental interactions, human ecologies and impacts, social consequences of such interactions and even geo- and cultural heritage