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Chapter 1: The Universe

Lisa Crause

Lisa Crause

Astronomer, South African Astronomical Observatory

SALT Board Member

After earning a PhD in astronomy, Crause realized her true passion was at the intersection of astronomy and engineering, or astronomical instrumentation. Her expertise is critical to the building and commissioning of new instruments, and to the maintenance and care of existing instruments. Crause, who has spent time at UW–Madison as a visiting scientist, jokes that she is the functional equivalent of a veterinarian for telescopes and instruments.

Julie Davis in the interior of the Southern Africa Large Telescope telescope

Julie Davis

Astronomy PhD student, University of Wisconsin–Madison

2017 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow

Davis knew at age 14 she wanted to be an astronomer after she gazed in awe at images from the Hubble Telescope. As a graduate student, Davis continues her work addressing an enduring question in galaxy evolution: How do galaxies obtain their gas and how do these gases contribute to the birth of new stars?

Manxoyi Sivuyile

Sivuyile Manxoyi

Education and Communication Officer, South African Astronomical Observatory

SALT Collateral Benefits Program

Formerly a teacher, Manxoyi is now focused on science communication, education and outreach, with the goal of contributing to the transformation of South Africa’s historically disadvantaged communities. He visited Madison to participate in the UW–Madison Wisconsin Teacher Enhancement Program, an experience that inspired him and influenced his approach to science education.

Eric Wilcots

Eric Wilcots

Professor of Astronomy, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Interim Deputy Dean and Associate Dean for Research, College of Letters & Science

SALT Board Member

Wilcots received his first telescope when he was 8 or 9 years old and has been studying star formation and the ecosystems of galaxies most of his adult life. Few can match his enthusiasm. His primary research interests are the evolution of galaxies and their environments across cosmic time. Wilcots shares his passion for astronomy as director of Universe in the Park, an outreach program that includes night-sky observation events held at Wisconsin state parks from spring through fall.

Chapter 2: Life on Earth

Nicolas Beukes

Nicolas Beukes

Geologist, University of Johannesburg

Director, Centre of Excellence for Integrated Mineral and Energy Resource Analysis

Beukes has for decades studied early Earth geology. A field geologist, he is particularly interested in the creation of rocks over time and studying the record preserved in rock layers. He has traced Earth’s past atmosphere and environments and has expanded his work to include the search for the origins of life.

Clark Johnson

Clark Johnson

Vilas Distinguished Professor of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Principal Investigator, Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium

Johnson examines the chemical makeup of rocks to understand ancient life and the evolution of Earth’s mantle and crust. Among a host of other scientific interests, he helps lead a team looking at the origins and evolution of life in the universe. He believes the key to understanding the origins of life on Earth will be found on Mars.

John Valley

John Valley

Professor of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Co-Investigator, Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium

Valley, a geochemist, led a team of researchers that identified the oldest piece of Earth’s crust: a microscopic crystal called a zircon, which informs what we know about how Earth formed 4.4 billion years ago. He was also part of a team that helped date the oldest-known fossils on the planet.

Herve Wabo

Hervé Wabo

Geologist, Paleomagnetic Laboratory, University of Johannesburg

Research Associate, Centre of Excellence for Integrated Mineral and Energy Resource Analysis

Wabo completed his graduate work with Nic Beukes at the University of Johannesburg and has worked with Clark Johnson to study the signatures of early life in South Africa’s rock record. In the “Paleomag Lab” he studies the magnetism of rocks, which is set at the time they form and can tell scientists where the rocks were on the planet when they formed and how the rocks were oriented. It can reveal information about ancient continents and in some cases be used to help determine the age of rocks.

Chapter 3: Humankind

Ronald J Clarke

Ronald J. Clarke

Honorary Professorial Research Fellow, Evolutionary Studies Institute

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Clarke is a paleoanthropologist most widely known for his role in the 1997 discovery of Little Foot, the most complete skeleton of Australopithecus ever found, in Sterkfontein Caves. He studied with the famed anthropologist and archaeologist, Louis Leakey, and is credited with a number of other discoveries. He has spent most of his life investigating hominids and today also helps work with students and other researchers at Swartkrans.

John Hawks poses in front of a cave.

John Hawks

Vilas-Borghesi Distinguished Achievement Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin–Madison

J.F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution

Hawks has traveled across Africa, Europe and Asia studying ancient bones and human genomes. In 2013, he was one of the leaders of a team that discovered Homo naledi, a new human ancestor, at the Rising Star cave in South Africa. He’s passionate about transforming science with technology and for creating opportunities to make science accessible to more people.

University of the Witwatersrand archeologist Kathleen Kuman introduces students from a visiting UW–Madison-led archaeological field school to stone-tool artifacts

Kathleen Kuman

Professor Emeritus of Archaeology, Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Swartkrans Paleoanthropological Research Project

Kuman grew up in Washington, D.C., and as a stone tool archaeologist, she eventually made her way to Africa. She and Ron Clarke met in 1981 while she was doing work at Sterkfontein Cave in South Africa. Kuman is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on prehistoric, Stone Age tools. Her expertise in site formation and cultural and behavioral evolution is also pivotal to her role working with students and researchers at Swartkrans.

Travis PIckering

Travis Pickering

Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Director, Swartkrans Paleoanthropological Research Project and the UW Anthropology Field School

As a biological anthropologist, Pickering examines how organisms decay and become fossilized. He has studied at Swartkrans, one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world, for more than 20 years and has focused on understanding the role of hominids in the complex ecology of the region going back nearly 2 million years. He has led the UW–Madison field school at Swartkrans since 2009.

Group shot of 10 smiling female students posing outdoors in South Africa.

Swartkrans Field School Students

Summer 2017

Each summer, a team of undergraduate students participates in a UW–Madison archaeology field school led by Professor Travis Pickering. For four weeks, students excavate at Swartkrans in the Cradle of Humankind, one of the most important sites in the world for the study of human evolution. UW–Madison students play a critical role in the research done here. The 2017 field school included (back row, left to right): Recognise Sambo (University of the Witwatersrand), Stephanie Starr, Stephanie Hyde, Hannah DeBrine, Annelise Beer (Salisbury University, Maryland), Christine Schmitt. Front row: Emmaleigh Grady, Andrea Heile (graduate field assistant), Talia Sankari, Anisa Dhillon.