A bit more than 12 weeks ago, I embarked on a project to report from the inside of a well-known research institution about the daily work of scientists. I stayed at the institute for three months. During this time, I had a key, a desk and a more or less free pass to explore the premises, a bit like an embedded reporter with the military. No flak jacket, though. (No flak either.) The results can be seen here in this... Read more
ABOUT Kerstin Hoppenhaus
My name is Kerstin Hoppenhaus. I am a filmmaker and a freelance science journalist. I am new to the kind of distributed reporting I am attempting here (as far as I know, not many have done this before), but I have some experience with different kinds of longterm observations, mostly from developing and directing TV documentary series.
I have also been, a while ago, a biologist. So I know the lab. I know what is (and isn’t) going on there every day. And I do think it is one of the most fascinating habitats on the planet. One that has now, with the new media, become reportable.
Kerstin Hoppenhaus: All Posts
This is last week’s exchange between the team at the Iyaka field station and Barbara Fruth at the institute in Leipzig. +++ Dear Barbara, Since tuesday, We have cut 3 more transects (C17, C18, C19) and we have done 3 censuses with Mp. (C14, C15, C17). Mp. is a good worker. The plan is to finish first the south west corner (A13 to C20), then we will start the south east corner (D13 to F20). Local poeple says we should... Read more
The cleanroom: An experiment in granular reporting Over the three months of my stay at the institute, I had a chance to take an unexpectedly deep dive into DNA library preparation. It all started at one of the first lab meetings that I attended, with the Advanced Sequencing Techniques Group of Matthias Meyer in the genetics department. A rough estimate of required sample material. A visit to the clean room archive. Result: this experiment ends here. #AncientDNA #iEVA — I,... Read more
The costs of human bones - A conversation on Twitter After spent much of my last weeks at the institute with expert cast makers, this Twitter-conversation today caught my attention.It started with this remark by Holly Dunsworth, who is teaching paleoanthropology at the University of Rhode Island. It's a teensy bit irksome that a replica of a hominin skeleton costs as much as a small expedition to find a brand new one. #anthropology — Holly Dunsworth (@HollyDunsworth) July 16, 2013... Read more
As of today, my twelve weeks at the institute are over and I am no longer on site at the institute. But I still have a ton of material, so I will keep blogging a little longer. I will also try to draw some conclusions from my little reporting experiment and post them here. For now, for the main part, I want to thank the people of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology for their openness, their... Read more
There is news from the Iyaka team, Matthis and Rodolphe, who are in DR Congo right now to survey bonobo populations for an eco-tourism project. Barbara Fruth, their supervisor at the institute, talked to them via satellite phone yesterday. They have built their camp at the new location, closer to their study site than the institute’s main camp in LuiKotale, and they have cut the first 15 transects in the south of the study area, close to the river. Along... Read more
On one of the cooler and rainier mornings this summer I was sitting on the terrace of the institute’s cafeteria with Jordi Rosell and Sahra Talamo. On the table: coffee in paper cups and a brown envelope stuffed thick with bubble wrap. Jordi Rosell is a zooarcheologist from IPHES, the Catalan Institute for Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution in Tarragona, Spain, and he studies the interactions between ancient humans and animals. Between the bubblewrap he brought some animal bones from... Read more
A few weeks ago, an aluminum case with 21 chimpanzee skulls arrived at the institute from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The skulls have been lying in a hut in the rainforest, some of them for years, males, females, two juveniles, collected by Colin Groves, an anthropologist who worked in the area. Most of them were found in village garbage pits and are dark brown from humic acid, some are charred and gnawed off at the edges, most have lost... Read more