Title

Comparing Soil Properties Through Geochemical Data and a Geographic Information System: A Soil Study of Gona, Ethiopia

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Graduate

Major

Earth and Environmental Sciences, Watershed Science Concentration

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

Gary Stinchcomb; Haluk Cetin, PhD

Presentation Format

Poster Presentation

Abstract/Description

Scientists continue to debate the onset and development of hominin migration events throughout the East African Rift System (EARS). Recent archaeological discoveries reveal that Homo sapiens initially emerged in north Africa, 300ka, migrated throughout north and sub-Saharan Africa, and into Eurasia between 50 to 120ka. Variations in environmental conditions are often inferred to be the catalyst of these migrations, yet the precise context of these dispersals remain unclear. A lack of land-based records hinders this debate. What were environmental conditions like on land from the emergence of our direct ancestors to the present day? Answers may lie in the paleosols (fossilized soils) of Gona, Ethiopia, an area with one of the most established archaeological records in the EARS.

Paleosols are a reservoir of biogeochemical dynamics that can be related to the surrounding environment. Thus, the soil properties of paleosols are a practical archive of paleoenvironmental indicators. The pH, electrical conductivity, bulk density, salinity and hydrolysis were measured from paleosols that range from three interglacial periods, 400ka, 90ka and 10ka. These values were then compared to the modern-day Africa Soil Profiles Database within a geographic information system and interpreted for environmental change over time.

High evapotranspiration in this semi-arid environment likely results in low infiltration and subsurface drainage of water, which is insufficient to transport salt out of the system. This results in abundant saline soil formation. These results shed light on environmental change from the time of our earliest modern ancestors to the modern day.

Fall Scholars Week 2018 Event

Earth and Environmental Sciences Poster Session

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Comparing Soil Properties Through Geochemical Data and a Geographic Information System: A Soil Study of Gona, Ethiopia

Scientists continue to debate the onset and development of hominin migration events throughout the East African Rift System (EARS). Recent archaeological discoveries reveal that Homo sapiens initially emerged in north Africa, 300ka, migrated throughout north and sub-Saharan Africa, and into Eurasia between 50 to 120ka. Variations in environmental conditions are often inferred to be the catalyst of these migrations, yet the precise context of these dispersals remain unclear. A lack of land-based records hinders this debate. What were environmental conditions like on land from the emergence of our direct ancestors to the present day? Answers may lie in the paleosols (fossilized soils) of Gona, Ethiopia, an area with one of the most established archaeological records in the EARS.

Paleosols are a reservoir of biogeochemical dynamics that can be related to the surrounding environment. Thus, the soil properties of paleosols are a practical archive of paleoenvironmental indicators. The pH, electrical conductivity, bulk density, salinity and hydrolysis were measured from paleosols that range from three interglacial periods, 400ka, 90ka and 10ka. These values were then compared to the modern-day Africa Soil Profiles Database within a geographic information system and interpreted for environmental change over time.

High evapotranspiration in this semi-arid environment likely results in low infiltration and subsurface drainage of water, which is insufficient to transport salt out of the system. This results in abundant saline soil formation. These results shed light on environmental change from the time of our earliest modern ancestors to the modern day.