Published 20 June 2017
What does the geological record reveal about where we are headed?
Humans modify the biosphere at an accelerating rate, directing evolution of species and ecosystems, trans-locating organisms across the globe, appropriating huge energy resources, and increasing biological interaction with technology. These changes have been unfolding for millennia, but have accelerated in the past two centuries. How might these patterns be reflected in the geological record? And, are the changes comparable in scale to those of deep time evolutionary transitions, with possible near-future trajectories that include mass extinction?
Mark Williams is a Professor of Palaeobiology at the University of Leicester. He is interested in the evolution of the biosphere over geological timescales, with an emphasis on understanding the rate and degree of current biological change. He is a founding member of The Anthropocene Working Group, and with Jan Zalasiewicz, is the author of the popular science books ‘The Goldilocks Planet’ (2012), ‘Ocean Worlds’ (2014) and ‘Skeletons: the frame of life’ (late 2017) (Oxford University Press).
Iain McCalman is currently a Research Professor of History at the University of Sydney, and Co-Director of the Sydney Environment Institute. Over his long academic career, Iain has established a national and international reputation as an historian of science, culture and the environment whose work has influenced university scholars and students, government policy makers and broad general publics around the world. He is the author of The Reef —A Passionate History. The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change (2014). In 2007 Iain was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia for Services to History and the Humanities. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Royal Society of New South Wales.