Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts is the director of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program at the National Museum of Natural History. A renowned specialist in human origins research, Potts has spent much of his career piecing together the record of Earth’s environmental change and human adaptation. His ideas about how human evolution was a response to environmental uncertainty and disruption have stimulated wide attention and new research in several scientific fields. He leads excavations at several early human sites in the East African Rift Valley, including the famous handaxe site of Olorgesailie, Kenya, and also co-directs ongoing projects in southern and northern China. The author of numerous research articles and books, such as Humanity’s Descent: The Consequences of Ecological Instability (William Morrow, 1996), Potts has also been featured in the three-part PBS NOVA series ‘Becoming Human’ (2009) and the BBC series ‘The Origins of Us’ (2011). He has received a number of honors, including The Peter Buck Chair in Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History (2008). Potts is curator of Smithsonian’s Hall of Human Origins, which opened at the Natural History Museum in March 2010, and is co-author of the companion book, titled What Does It Mean To Be Human?
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