Monthly Archives: February 2016

Presentation on “New Insights into Human Evolution from the Rising Star Cave in South Africa”

(Sonora, CA) – Columbia College will host a presentation entitled “New Insights into Human Evolution from the Rising Star Cave in South Africa” by Debra Bolter, Ph.D., Modesto Junior College (MJC) Professor of Anthropology and Research Associate with the Evolutionary Studies Institute in South Africa. The free event is scheduled for Thursday, March 17, 2016 in Columbia College’s Dogwood Theatre from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

Bolter will present her work on the new hominid species, Homo naledi, published recently in the open access science journal eLife and featured in the October issue of National Geographic. These remarkable fossil remains were recently discovered and excavated at the Rising Star Cave in South Africa, the “Cradle of Humankind.” The fossils represent a collection of multiple individuals who laid buried 30 meters underground, undisturbed until recreational cavers accidentally stumbled on the hidden chamber in 2013.  Bolter’s talk will be an overview of the cave site, the context of the chamber, and a discussion of the new insights on human evolution that this collection of over 1500 specimens provides to anthropologists and paleoanthropologists.  Bolter was recruited to lead the investigation of the immature remains from the Rising Star Cave based on her research on primate life history, which focuses on early life stage of development. She approaches the study of immature individuals through the integration of information from body multiple systems: cranial, dental, skeletal, and from soft tissue like muscle, fat and skin. Her research on growth and development includes vervet and colobine monkeys, and apes – both species of chimpanzees, gibbons and gorillas. Overview articles she has authored lay out her approach to methods of study on growth, development and life history, implications for interpretation of fossil growth and development during human evolution, and more recently, interpretations of soft tissue body composition evolution from australopithecines to Homo.  As a research associate in the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Bolter continues to study and work on fossil remains from South Africa.

For more information, contact:

Dean of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Joe Ryan





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A leading international expert in groundwater research, Dr. Ty Ferré of the University of Arizona, will be a featured speaker at Columbia College on Thursday, February 11, from 3-4:30 pm at the Dogwood Forum.

The presentation, part of an international lecture series on groundwater science sponsored by the National Ground Water Research and Educational Foundation, will focus on the latest innovations in modeling groundwater conditions, how these impact public policy decisions and, locally, how these decisions can impact both fire recovery efforts and drought conditions the Mother Lode faces.

Dr. Ferré‘s talk is geared toward geology, watershed, forestry and natural resources students, as well as professionals and interested members of the public.

Dr. Ferré specializes in groundwater studies and the use of innovations and information to resolve ground water conflicts and policy issues. As the featured speaker for the groundwater association’s 2016 Darcy Lecture Series, he will make appearances at colleges, universities, and at community and professional forums throughout the world this year. His visit to Columbia College follows an appearance at Stanford University, and is co-sponsored by Columbia College, the Columbia College Foundation, and Condor Earth Technologies, a Sonora-based geologic and environmental consulting firm which arranged Ferré’s presentation here.

“The Butte Fire damage and ongoing recovery from the Rim Fire have raised local awareness of soil erosion, debris flows hazards, changing weather patterns, and watershed management,” said Dr. John H. Kramer, Condor’s principal hydrogeologist and an expert on groundwater issues. “Condor realized that this year’s 2016 Darcy Lecture topic related to our watershed concerns. Dr. Ferré will describe how computer models are used to predict a watershed’s response to changing conditions and he will address how good science can best assist those making public policy and fire recovery decisions.”

Kramer noted that Ferré agreed to include the Mother Lode in his lecture series because of the opportunity to meet with officials facing immediate and challenging watershed management decisions and community members impacted by fire and drought-related issues.

According to Columbia College Geology Professor Jeff Tolhurst, Dr. Ferré’s appearance is an excellent opportunity for students and local professionals to learn about cutting edge advancements in the field of water management at a critical time of drought and ground water depletion.

“The two big issues in California right now are drought and fire,” Tolhurst said. “We’re pleased to work with the Foundation and Condor, one of our local geo-tech consulting firms, to bring this world-renowned expert to speak to our students.”

Following his talk at Columbia College, Ferré will appear at a community gathering with watershed stakeholders in Calaveras County. That event, entitled “Practical Decisions for Good Policy from Sound Science,” is also open to the public, and will be held Thursday evening from 7-8:30 pm at Bret Harte High School’s Multipurpose Room in Angels Camp. For more information, contact Dr. John Kramer, Condor Earth Technologies, 209-536-7345.

Ferré will also visit two Mother Lode high schools to talk with students about pursuing careers in science.

For more information, contact: Amy Nilson, Columbia College Foundation,