Rick Potts

Director, Human Origins Program, and Curator of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC

Presentation Title:

The challenges of becoming human: Evolution in an era of dramatic climate change

How have humans today become one of the most adaptable species on earth? In this talk, Dr. Potts will illustrate the evidence of extinctions and the emergence of adaptations over the past 6 million years of human evolution, one of the most dramatic eras of environmental change in Earth's history.

Lab Website

Recent Publications

The Smithsonian's "What does it mean to be human?" includes a variety of resources, including information on research on human evolution.

From AnthroNotes
Presenting Human Evolution to the Public: The Smithsonian Hall of Human Origins by Rick Potts (Spring 2010)

Plummer TW, Ditchfield PW, Bishop LC, Kingston JD, Ferraro JV, et al. (2009) Oldest Evidence of Toolmaking Hominins in a Grassland-Dominated Ecosystem.

Resources for Teaching

The Smithsonian's "What does it mean to be human?" includes a variety of resources, including educational resources for teaching human evolution. Among other materials, Adventures in the Rift Valley is an interactive exploring how researchers study the environment early hominins experienced.

From AnthroNotes

Teaching Resources from the Smithsonian Human Origins Program by Briana Pobiner (Spring 2010)

Teachers' Corner: Does Our Background Shape Our Thinking About Environmental Issues? By Torben C. Rick (Fall 2009)

The Adaptable Human Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts believes modern humans were adapted to change itself, as he explains in this text interview and video clip.

Climate's Role in Human Evolution May 2, 2007 story from NPR. "Millions of years ago, climate change shaped the evolution of the human species. Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts tells Robert Siegel that humans evolved as a response to an unstable environment. Potts is the director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History."

Human History Shows a Gift for Adaptability July 30, 2007 story from NPR. "Climate change isn't just about how humans affect the environment - it's a question of adaption, too. One scientist at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., says humans are the most adaptable species on Earth."

Scientists Finish First Draft of Neanderthal Genome February 13, 2009 story from NPR on the Neanderthal genome sequencing project.

Did Climate Change Drive Human Evolution? March 22, 2010 story from NPR. A report on the Smithsonian Human Origins project and the National Academy Report on how climate change over millions of years affected human evolution (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12825).