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The discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of hominin (the group encompassing modern humans, extinct human species, and all close human ancestors) was announced in September 2015. Found in a deep, nearly inaccessible cave system, this was the largest concentration of hominin bones ever found in Africa. The unusual distribution of bones suggested symbolic behaviour (e.g., deliberate placement by other H. naledi). The find attracted global media attention, including a feature in National Geographic. This discovery had such an impact that it was easily identified as one of the top 10 science discoveries of 2015 by numerous news outlets. The deposits, however, remain undated, leaving their evolutionary significance uncertain – were they a direct human ancestor or another branch on the family tree?

In the last talk of the 2017 Speaker Series, Dr. Eric Roberts, Associate Professor and Head of Geosciences, James Cook University, Queensland, Australia, presents an overview of the discovery of the site and discusses the efforts that went into unravelling the complex geological context of the cave system. He finishes with an overview of his team’s efforts and progress over the last two years at dating the fossils and refining our understanding of this important new hominin locality.

Alberta is home to six native species of snakes. They include the venomous prairie rattlesnake, the bull snake (that can grow up to two metres long), and the western hog-nosed snake that rolls over and plays dead when frightened. Snakes are feared and misunderstood by most of the human population and this can lead to their persecution and destruction. All of Alberta’s snakes are protected by provincial law, but this still does not stop some people from intentionally killing them, turning them into pets, or selling live ones.

Officer Zimmer spent several years working in snake country in the southeast corner of the province both protecting snakes and dealing with snake issues. In his presentation, he talks about identifying native snakes, how to prevent encounters, and protect native snake habitat. He also provides tips on what to do if you’re bitten by a snake.

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