Extreme Events and Shocks

With progressing global warming, extreme weather and climate events are generally becoming more frequent, more persistent and more severe. Other shocks in the human-Earth system, such as economic shocks or pandemics, are also likely to occur with greater frequency in the Anthropocene. Which commonalities characterize their emergence and the resulting dynamics, and what can we learn from different responses and adaptation measures in human societies?

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Projects Related to Extreme Events and Shocks

Teleconnections: A Spatiotemporal Atlas of the Technosphere

How did a state shift in planetary conditions occur in the wake of local transformations and how does that state shift feed back to such localities, further spurring their transformations? Can we map, and thereby discern, the systemic drivers and their mutual interdependencies that mesh the global fabric of the Anthropocene? In the collaborative project Teleconnections we seek to develop a new visual grammar representing social, technological, and ecological transformations across space and time, helping to get an evolving technosphere into view. more

Simulations as a tool for source criticism

Simulations have emerged as a powerful tool for source criticism, offering a novel approach to evaluate and understand historical, scientific, and media sources. more

Hiding in Plains Sight: Tracing the Emergence of the Technosphere between Kansas’ Dust Bowls

The dissertation project explores the socio-ecological dynamics that contributed to the emergence of the technosphere, using the example of Western Kansas’ groundwater irrigation crisis. The project analyzes the physical, technological, and societal rebirth of Western Kansas at the inflection point of the Great Acceleration, following the extreme events of the 1930s and 1950s Dust Bowls. It examines the emergence and transformation of the cultural, economic, legal, and technological drivers that enabled this socio-ecological transformation. In this way, the geoanthropological study raises the question of whether the same drivers that enabled this transformation are now trapping Kansas in its technospheric present. more

AI Assistant for Geoanthropology

The project aims to create an AI assistant to support research in the emerging, highly interdisciplinary field of geoanthropology. The new generation of generative AI is starting to transform scientific practice across all disciplines. In particular, large language models (LLMs) are rapidly becoming better at understanding text and quickly generating accurate responses, making this technology broadly applicable across many domains, including science. more

Dynamics of the Technosphere

The "Dynamics of the Technosphere" project is dedicated to understanding the complex and interconnected systems that constitute the technosphere and their interaction dynamics. By identifying distinct subsystems and measurable proxies for key system parameters and variables, our research aims to elucidate the fundamental relationships that govern the behavior of these systems. Through a combination of empirical data collection, computational modeling, and theoretical analysis, we seek to uncover the core principles driving energy and material fluxes, structural organization, and entropy within the technosphere. Our work will explore the specific mechanisms that couple different subsystems, aiming to provide a comprehensive framework for analyzing the dynamics of this intricate network of subsystems. more

In many complex systems, as e.g. in physics, ecology, finance, or history, phases of relatively stable states often alternate with with rapid shifts, as phase transitions, revolutions, the emergence or extinction of species etc. Physics, as well as e.g. classical economics (adopting concept from physics), tends to see these stable states as equilibria, i.e. as the result of some optimisation process. more

Pan-African Evolution

The Pan-African Evolution project is focused on understanding the early periods of human prehistory, and how early human shaping of the earth had cascading effects down to the present day. more


The WAMSA project, funded under the EU Horizon 2020 programm builds on both previously described work and emerging data from West Africa. Over the last decade, this region is yielding provocative insights that increasingly challenge early narratives about human biological and cultural evolution. Recent introgression of archaic specimens in the modern genome and very long persistence of Middle Stone Age (MSA) technology have been emphasized. The aim is to explain this distinct regional Stone Age Sequence. In other words what are the forces driving forces West African MSA “cultural anachronism”? Are climatic trends sufficient to explain long-lasting behavioral stability? Can demographic conditions between 150 and 11 thousand years ago explain it? Did connections exist between structured populations? Were West African populations geographically separated from the rest of the continent isolated? Were there natural barriers (eg. ecological) separating them from the rest of the continent?  more


The ERC funded IslandLab project will document long-term legacies and feedbacks between ecological changes, societal responses and ecosystem resilience on the island of Malta. more

Uniting Tropical Heritage and Future Policy

Archaeology and palaeoecology have major roles to play in addressing contemporary threats (e.g. Morrison, 2021). These disciplines have, however, often been ignored by policy makers beyond anecdotal comparisons. In this project area, the ISOTROPIC group has identified three main avenues through which the datasets it produces can be used to provide practical, quantitative assessments of important use for contemporary challenges. more

Past Human Impacts on the Tropics and Connected Earth Systems

The last 5 years of research in the tropics have not only started to demonstrate the long record of human presence emphasized above, but also the fact that human societies have left legacies of varying nature and intensity on different aspects of tropical ecosystems and their associated earth systems. This project applies varied methods to build detailed records of human interactions with different aspects of these environments across space and time including: more

Deep Human History in the Tropics

This project seeks to resolve the timing and nature of human adaptations to tropical forests in different parts of the world. It can be divided into four main sub-project areas, covering the time depth of our species’ interaction with these environments, with corresponding methodological approaches. more

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