Call for Scientists to Join Rising Star Workshop 2014

Unearthing more than 1200 early hominin fossil elements in November 2013, the Rising Star Expedition produced more material than one scientist or traditional paleoanthropological team could process in several years.

That inspired project leader Lee Berger and his collaborators come up with a different way of handling this find. Believing that there are likely to be other big hominid discoveries in the coming years, they want the people who will be leaders in the future to get used to handling large amounts of fossils now. “We hope to engage the next generation of scientists,” says Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, “and give them an opportunity to participate directly in this new age of exploration.”

To that end, Berger and colleagues just issued the following call for early-career scientists to join an innovative month-long workshop to study the material and prepare papers this spring:

Prof. Lee Berger announcing the start of the Rising Star Expedition in November 2013. (Photo by Andrew Howley)

The University of the Witwatersrand, through the Centre of Excellence in PalaeoSciences and the Evolutionary Studies Institute will be holding a unique workshop to study and describe recently discovered fossil early hominin material for a series of high impact publications. It is intended that the Workshop will be held in South Africa from early May until the first week of June 2014.

We are seeking early career scientists with data and skill sets applicable to the study of any part of the anatomy of early hominins. Participants must be willing to share these data and skills in a collaborative workshop designed to study, describe and publish these important hominin fossils.

The intent of the workshop is to give a unique opportunity to early career scientists to participate in the primary description of African early hominin material. Applicants must be able to attend the entirety of the workshop. Successful applicants will have all travel and accommodation costs covered, be given access to existing comparative fossils, modern material and all data sets and receive mentoring throughout the process from senior established scientists.

Output will include authorship on at least one high impact paper as well as continued collaboration and authorship on future research to which he/she contributes. Interested applicants should submit their CV’s, a brief summary of their skills or data sets that would be applicable to such a project (not to exceed 1500 words), and provide three letters of support from established scientists in the field.

Applications should be sent directly to Professor Lee R. Berger at and copied to his assistant Please make the subject line “Rising Star Workshop 2014”.

Selection will be by a senior panel of scientists and associates of the University of the Witwatersrand. Numbers of participants will be contingent upon available funding. Successful applicants will be informed on an ad-hoc basis of the success of their application at any time up and to the commencement of the workshop. Successful applicants will also qualify for formal associate status of the National Centre of Excellence and the Institute.


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Meet the Author
Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.